It is no surprise to anyone that caregivers have to stay on their toes. Keeping the calendar up to date and keeping on a schedule is a fantastic plan. I schedule in extra time before any appointment to allow for anything unexpected. This extra cushion usually allows enough time for a complete change of clothes and a seizure (never knowing when either will strike). Throw in an unexpected fever or problem finding parking (or both) and, well, my carefully laid out schedule becomes wishful thinking. Thankfully, this kind of perfect storm is rare and we make it to most appointments on time.
Having to make a call to 911 is taking the unexpected to a
whole different level.
Planning for emergencies and the unexpected mean we
caregivers always have to be ready for them.
We have to be on our toes. With
Robert, this could mean a change of clothes due to a failure with his
protective brief or it could mean he has a seizure that lasts for three minutes
with several minutes of confusion and fatigue afterwards.
It could also mean a trip to the Emergency Room (although,
thankfully, this is rare for him).
I was grateful to have been ready when we woke up not too
long ago and realized Robert needed to go to the hospital. Robert had woken up with a fever and had
trouble holding his glass of water to take his medication. I gave him something for the fever and he
went back to sleep for a bit. When he woke
up, he had trouble sitting up on his own and was still running a fever.
My husband and I could have gotten him to the hospital on
our own but it would have been difficult.
We made the decision to call 911 and I was happy we did, considering his
blood pressure was shockingly low and he was eventually diagnosed with sepsis
and pneumonia. After a week in the
hospital and two different kinds of IV antibiotics, he is out of the hospital
and getting back to his old self.
Robert doesn’t go to the hospital very often (knock on
wood!) but it is helpful to be prepared in case he ever does. Because it’s difficult to think straight when
a loved one is so sick that emergency personnel need to be called, here are a
few tips to help prepare for the unexpected:
bag packed for your caree so you can grab it on your way out the door to the
hospital (or keep it in your car). I
keep a bag packed for Robert with a change of clothes, extra protective briefs,
wipes and medical gloves. This bag has
come in handy when we are out and about and Robert has a bathroom
accident. What I realized I forgot to
include in case of a trip to the hospital was basic toiletries. Those will be added to the emergency
bag. I grabbed Robert’s word search
puzzle, pens and glasses on the way out the door as well but it would have been
helpful to have an extra set of these in the bag too. Everyone needs a bit of
entertainment when they’re feeling better! (Plus, I never know when Robert will
run out of pens!).
Create a one page medicine list/contact sheet. I have all of Robert’s medical information typed
on one page including his medical record numbers, insurance information, address,
emergency contacts, contacts at both the care facility and Day Program as well
as a list of medications (and the medication schedule). Some people may not be comfortable including
the social security number or insurance information but I wanted a document
with all of his pertinent information readily available for me. If Robert had assets or a credit rating to
protect, I wouldn’t include his birthdate or social security information either. Print several
copies and keep the document up to date.
I was grateful I had recently updated his list and had copies on hand to
give to the Fire Department, the paramedics and the ER doctor. They all asked the same questions about
medications and all were grateful to have one sheet of paper with all of the
information. It also allowed me the ability
to concentrate on telling them what was wrong with Robert instead of what
medication he takes or when he was born and gave me a list to consult when reviewing his medications with the hospital staff.
When talking with the 911 dispatcher, remain
calm (it’s a stressful situation but relaying information in a panicked state
just compounds the situation). Give the operator
information about what is happening and any chronic condition of your loved one. I told the operator Robert has epilepsy but
had to correct her when she assumed he had a seizure and that’s why I was
calling. At the end of our call, she
read seizure precautions to me which I listened to and thanked her for the
information. I then politely asked her
to add information that people cannot swallow their tongue during a seizure so
to advise them not to place anything in their mouth. (My motto: educate and advocate!).
Keep a bag packed for you, too. I regretted not grabbing a book and my phone
charger before leaving the house on the way to the hospital. There were plenty of times a good book would
have been a welcome distraction and by the time I was leaving the hospital that
first night, my phone was in the red zone.
In the next post, we’ll talk about how to be an advocate
while your loved one is in the hospital.
Please share in the comment section what you do to prepare for the
unexpected or that 911 call.