Compared to younger age groups, elderly people are more likely to be taken to the emergency room (ER) via ambulance, receive a more extensive workup, be admitted to the hospital, stay longer, or have repeat visits. An older person receiving emergency medical services is often too frightened or confused, or sick and in pain to give reliable information about his/ her health status and medical care. Here are some helpful tips to make a sudden trip to the ER a little less harrowing:
Write It Down
Geriatric specialists recommend that older adults write down important information and leave it in prominent places where family or emergency medical personnel can see it. At the top of the page, write “Vital Information” or “Medical History of (patients name).” Put down your full name and preferred name or nickname, next of kin, designated decision maker, and health-care agent. Include their contact information and address. Also include:
- Medicare/Medicaid/insurer’s identification number and phone number.
- Physician(s): list all, including specialists; include phone numbers.
- Advance directives: living will, durable power of attorney for health care (health- care proxy), do not resuscitate order. Even if you do not have an advance directive, write down your treatment wishes and preference, especially about care at the end of life. (5 Wishes form)
- Medications: name and dosage, including eye drops and all over-the-counter (OTC) drugs.
- Pharmacies and phone numbers.
- Allergies: foods, medications, contact allergies such as skin rashes, itching and sensitivities.
- Normal physical functions (dressing, personal hygiene, toileting, eating, walking, transferring, bathing) and whether the person needs assistance.
- Dentures (type); hearing aid; eyeglasses.
- Nutritional status, including special diet.
- Medical/surgical history.
- Pacemakers, other implants.
Keep this information (and advance directives) in a clear plastic folder next to routine medications and/or hang on the inside of the house (perhaps on the refrigerator), inside a cupboard, dresser or desk. Make several copies of this information and make sure family members or designated friends, have a copy.place it wherever those who will accompany the older person to the ER may find it; perhaps on a bedroom dresser, inside a cuboard, in a purse or wallet.