There are three things that you can do to prepare for unexpected trips to the emergency room. Firstly, write down all your essential information, including your emergency contacts. Secondly, be sure to have this information readily available. This will help when ambulance officers arrive in an emergency. It also helps doctors and nurses if you go to the emergency room at a hospital.
Last but not least, it’s a good idea to have a bag already packed with some clothing and toiletries. Pack enough for 2 to 3 days, in case you unexpectedly have to go to the hospital. If you are thinking, oh well that is easy. I can do that! Then take action today because, in an emergency, you might not be able to do this. If you’re elderly, and/or have health conditions, having an emergency bag ready to go will give you peace of mind.
If you have a loved one or care for someone who would not be able to do this for themselves, now is the time to help. Why not help them prepare for an unexpected trip to the emergency room?
There are people living in the community who are unable to compile their essential medical information or pack a bag for unexpected trips to the emergency room. But, some preparation now can make a large impact on the speed at which you receive help if you need an ambulance. Preparation will also help if you’re suddenly taken to the emergency room. Also, having your clothes and toiletries with you in the hospital gives you comfort during your stay.
When you’re rushed to the hospital, health professionals will want to know your health history. They’ll also want to know what support and services you already have in place at home. This is to ensure that you’ll have the care and support that you need when you’re discharged from the hospital.
Now that we are living in a pandemic, there are lockdowns and visitor restrictions. This can mean that arranging help becomes problematic. Thus, we need to start thinking about how to assist vulnerable people to prepare a hospital bag and their essential medical information in advance. How can we help people to prepare for an unexpected trip to the emergency room ahead of time?
There are vulnerable people in our community who may not be able to compile their essential information. Someone may have a disability or health issue that prevents them from being able to pull all their information together and record it in one place.
Some people may have issues with their memory, making it impossible for them to recall their medical history. Conditions such as low vision, and Parkinson’s Disease, can make it difficult to write information down.
If you know someone who needs support to live at home, it may be valuable to find out a little more about the help they need. You could help them to compile essential information. That way, it’s on hand in case they need an ambulance, or the person has to go to the emergency room.
Some people have a personal alarm service that can call an ambulance if they need help. They press their alarm and emergency contacts to get an alert too. The alarm services can be programmed to provide emergency services with the necessary information. Some people use medical alert jewelry too. This can also provide vital medical information if ambulance officers attend.
Other people may not have any of these things in place. Reasons may vary, but they’re often unaware of such services.
If you call an ambulance, there’s information that the paramedics will ask as part of their assessment. This includes what medication you are taking, your allergies, and pre-existing medical conditions.
Depending on your level of consciousness when the ambulance arrives, you may not be able to provide this information. So it is a good idea to have this information written down, where it is easy to find. Keep essential information with your medication or on the fridge where it can be located easily and quickly. Keep the information simple and in one form.
Once you’ve compiled your essential information, keep it where it’s easy to find in an emergency. It is a good idea to keep your information organized in a folder that is easy to take with you in a hurry. If you have an Enduring Power of Attorney or Advanced Health Directive, keep it all in one place. Make sure it’s easy to find and let a loved one know where you have left it (e.g. on top of the fridge.)
When you arrive at the emergency room, the triage nurse, nurses, and doctors will ask for a lot of information. It’s a good idea to compile your essential information on a single page so that you do not have to rely on your memory. When you’re under stress and your fight or flight response kicks in, the problem-solving parts of our brain start to slow down, and this can make remembering things difficult. This can happen when you’re in shock, in pain, or feeling unwell.
In an emergency, Hospital staff can access your electronic health records, but, not everyone has a health record. Some people have chosen to opt-out of this.
It is important to record information for emergency and hospital staff about what is normal for you. In an emergency, health professionals need to make assessments based on how you are presenting at that moment. It is useful for them to know any existing conditions. For example, if you have trouble walking or have experienced memory loss or confusion.
When it comes to an older person showing signs of confusion an assessment will need to be made to quickly determine whether this is due to a condition called Delirium. Delirium can cause a rapid change in someone’s thinking and alertness. According to Dementia Australia, “ about 10% of Australians aged over 70 years have delirium at the time of admission to hospital, and a further 8% develop delirium during a hospital admission”.
The Department of Health advises that “Delirium is sometimes mistaken for dementia or depression, so it is important for family/friends to notify medical/nursing staff of any sudden change in a person’s mental state.”
It is also important to let hospital staff know what help you get at home and what help you will need while in the hospital. Recording the contact details of anyone who provides you with care or services can be very helpful to hospital staff. This will help them to care plan and provide support for you upon discharge.
Lengthy hospital stays with no belongings are a common problem for people with little family support. Having no contact with loved ones or friends can go unnoticed by some people who live alone. During COVID-19 outbreaks, hospital visitor restrictions impact further on this. You might not be able to rely on family and friends to go to your home, pack a bag for you and bring it to the hospital. In an outbreak of COVID-19, hospital visitor restrictions can change overnight. It makes sense to help people to prepare for unexpected trips to the emergency room now more than ever.
If you know someone is vulnerable and needs support with meals, shopping, personal care, etc., then it stands to reason that they would also need help to pack a bag for the hospital. They may also need help compiling their essential medical information.
Preparing for an unexpected trip to the emergency room makes sense, and gives you peace of mind.
Kylie Knoble has worked in aged and community services for over 20 years as a nurse, and diversional therapist. She’s also worked as a care manager and dementia consultant. Kylie is the creator and owner of The Ready 2 Go Bag which aims to assist people who are vulnerable to prepare for unexpected trips to the hospital. www.theready2gobag.com.au.
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