Tips to Navigate Through a Crisis

Source: 
Senior Spectrum Newspaper
Published: 
03/01/2010

I'm terrified of getting "the call" that my 75-year-old dad is in the hospital. How can I make sure I'm taking the right steps when I get there? - Laura, 48, in New Jersey

No one is ever fully prepared for this situation. Yet the decisions you make in a moment of crisis can have a significant impact on the level of care your parent receives, both in the hospital and after discharge. The key is to educate yourself in advance - before you even get the call. This is one of the main reasons why I recently launched an app for the iPhone called Elder 911 (E911), which is all about offering quick tips to help navigate through the complexities of a crisis. Here's what I advise to help those who find themselves in the hospital with an older parent or loved one:

  • Choose your hospital...if you can. If you have the time to decide where your parent will be receiving care, get them to a hospital that already has his or her patient records, or can access them relatively quickly.
  • Triple check admissions information. Make sure every detail is accurate, and that you have all necessary legal documents in hand or easily accessible - such as living wills, Do Not Resuscitate orders (DNRs), Health Care Durable Power of Attorney, and Medicare/Medicaid cards. These are things you can - and should - prepare even before a crisis hits.
  • Ensure quality of care. It's up to (Navigate Crisis you to advocate for your parent, so be proactive and don't be afraid to ask questions. Keep notes of doctor and nurse interaction, and ask the charge nurse for an overview of all activity. Find the social worker assigned to the floor to address everything from diet to laundry. Find out about any potential surgery situations and be present in the treatment rooms whenever possible.
  • Plan for discharge. When leaving the hospital for home or a facility, your loved one may experience "transfer trauma," and feel scared or disoriented. Make sure you meet and talk to the hospital's discharge planner, who can help you plan in advance to ease the transition. Ask questions like: who will arrange for transportation?

What time of day will your parent be discharged? Will any prescriptions need to be filled? Will any followup or home care be required?

In an emergency situation, knowledge is power. Arm yourself with as much information as you can in advance, so you're not without answers at critical times. Good luck!

 

Over the last 40 years, Dr. Marion (Marion Somers, Ph.D.) has worked with thousands of seniors and their caregivers as a geriatric care manager and elder care expert. It is now her goal to help caregivers everywhere through her book (“Elder Care Made Easier"), and iPhone apps (www.elder911.net). For more information, visit www.DrMarion.com.

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