Preparing for Senior Emergencies

Adult children of elderly parents know that emergencies can happen, and some may even lie awake nights wondering what may happen, and when. At Home Instead Senior Care of Minneapolis, we’ve found that some knowledge and preparation can go a long way toward preventing emergencies and helping caregivers to better handle senior emergencies if and when they do happen. Meanwhile, if you are a caregiver of a senior living in their home, these steps will help you to obtain some peace of mind.

senior emergency kitWhat do you need to know? How can you prepare? Read on for three key topic areas:

  • Understanding Medication Risks and Managing Senior Medication Regimens
  • Implementing Senior Health Tracking Tools
  • Creating a Senior Emergency Kit

Understanding Medication Risks and Managing Senior Medication Regimens

If you are caring for a senior, you may encounter a baffling array of bottles and pills that would seem to require a degree in pharmacology to manage. There are pills to be taken with food, pills that must be taken in combination with other pills, and some that must be taken alone.

The careful management of medications is critical because of potential drug interactions and overdosing. According to the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists (ASCP), 28% of senior hospitalizations are due to adverse reactions to drugs. And the result of medication mishaps can be dire, from hospitalization to disability and even death.

senior medicationIn this segment, we’ll provide some tips on managing medication regimens and how to watch for warning signs of medication problems such as overdose.

Tips for Managing Medications:

  • Follow exact dosage instructions for all prescriptions and over the counter (OTC) medicines.
  • Use one pharmacy for all prescriptions and OTC medicines, and ensure that the pharmacy has a complete list of all medicines on file.
  • If the senior sees more than one physician, ensure that all doctors have a list of all medications.
  • Keep an updated Medication Tracking Sheet of all OTC and prescribed medicines.
  • Bring your updated Medication Tracking Sheet to each doctor’s visit.
  • Read all medicine precautions and potential side effects, and know what to watch for.
  • Follow any precautions with regard to alcohol use in combination with medicines.
  • Dispose of expired medications and any medications your physician has told you to discontinue.
  • Use a pill organizer to organize medications by dose and time of day.
  • Never take medications that were prescribed for someone else.
  • Contact the senior’s primary physician regarding any side effects such as nausea, depression or sleep problems.

Warning Signs of Medication Overdose or Drug Interaction:

  • Confusion or delirium
  • Mood swings or psychiatric problems
  • Dizziness, loss of coordination, or falls
  • Incontinence
  • Sleep problems
  • Loss of appetite or energy
  • Sudden memory loss
  • Headaches

Additional resources:

senior careImplementing Senior Health Tracking Tools

Utilizing tracking tools and systems can help you stay on top of a senior’s medication regimens, important medical history information and critical contact information in case of emergency. Our recommendations include:

Additional resources:

home careCreating a Senior Emergency Kit

Tracking and managing all the data associated with a senior’s health profile is an excellent step toward fully managing a senior’s health and being prepared for emergencies in their home. The next step is to keep your tracking paperwork in one place along with other important documents. An accordion file, with label tabs, is an excellent way to keep your documents organized and ready.

The Home Instead Senior Care Network has developed a Senior Emergency KitSM complete with worksheets and checklists, in conjunction with Humana Points of Caregiving®. We are proud to be able to offer this resource to Minnesota seniors and their caregivers.

To assemble your own emergency kit, use this handy checklist to collect these documents in your accordion file:

  • Contact Names and Numbers Sheet
  • Medication Tracking Sheet
  • Allergies and Conditions Tracking Sheet
  • Record of Doctor Visits
  • Copy of Medicare/Medicaid Card
  • Insurance Policies
  • Healthcare Proxy
  • DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) Order
  • Advance Directives forms, such as Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney
  • Will and Testament
  • Organ Donor Card
  • List of Valuables

If you would like a hard copy of this kit, or have questions regarding senior care, please contact our Minneapolis office at 763-544-5988. We will be happy to help you.

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