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Saturday, May 17, 2008

5 Ways Caregivers Can Be Prepared for Emergencies

Planning ahead for the steps to take in an emergency can make a big difference, and perhaps save a life. Family caregivers or paid caregivers need to know ahead of time what to do in an emergency and how to be prepared.

1. HAVE DETAILED HOME CARE NOTES. The home care notes need to have medications, instructions, diagnoses, phone numbers, daily routines, meals and food consumption, and changes in condition. These notes can be kept in a notebook with tabs to separate the sections. This way the caregiver can take the notebook to the doctor's office or to the hospital to provide information about recent or past conditions observed. For example, it could be useful for healthcare professionals to know how many days ago a person lost his or her appetite, or when a new condition was first observed.

2. THE VIAL OF LIFE is a form with a medical history and other important information. You can download one to fill out at

3. EMERGENCY PROCEDURE PLANS. With several caregivers taking turns it becomes even more important to coordinate steps in case of an emergency. Each caregiver should know the emergency steps for an injury or illness. If there is a fall and an injury could have occurred, the caregiver should call 911 and avoid moving the person . Paramedics can check for injuries and provide transport to the hospital for x-rays and tests.

4. CAREGIVERS CAN HAVE A LIST OF STROKE AND HEART ATTACK SYMPTOMS. If a brief list is posted on the fridge the caregivers can refer to it quickly. If in doubt caregivers need to call 911. Many healthcare articles refer to the fact that it's important to call for help as soon as possible if a stroke or heart attack is suspected, and time can make the difference between life and death.

5. CAREGIVERS NEED TO STAY IN THE EMERGENCY ROOM unless asked to do otherwise. This way they can provide reassurance, support, information and assistance for the person whom they are caring for. If someone is transported by an ambulance the caregiver can follow in a car with the medical history, insurance information, clothing or supplies, and caregiver notebook. Unless asked to do otherwise the caregiver can assist the person in the emergency room. If the person has Alzheimer's or dementia it can be especially comforting and helpful for a familiar caregiver to be there for support.

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