Aging: Life Can Change in an Instant. Are We Prepared? cont. 7 “To-Do’s”

RHW’s wife, in essence, had neither control nor a Plan B.  She stepped back, relying on her husband’s good judgment, accepting the fact that he was going to consult one other specialist, then proceed as he thought best. All worked out well, but not without stress and worry. A pre-thought-out/pre-discussed plan for such emergencies would have–no doubt– made decisions easier.

Perhaps businesses do better in this regard when they require employees’ emergency information and keep it on file. A friend’s sister, (a widow on Medicare) had a seizure while at work. Her first ever seizure. 911 was called immediately and she was taken to the nearest hospital for stabilization and evaluation.

What about her emergency information? She listed just one person to call in an emergency. A MISTAKE– list at least 3 people if possible. 1st person was her adult son, a teacher. He couldn’t be reached–his class was on a field trip, scheduled to return after school hours. Her granddaughter (from another country) was in the US for the summer, working nearby; she was young; clueless about making health care decisions. The initial major decision: which (of 3) hospitals’ neurological centers should her grandmother be taken to. Evidently 911 responders made the decision. Several hours later the adult son made the decision to have his mother  transferred to a different hospital for further treatment. It was a good decision, made under tough circumstances.

7 “To-Do’s” can help us prepare as well as possible 

1.  Make time to sit down with aging parents, discuss and prioritize whom to put on an emergency contact list, their relationship or reason for being on the list. Include a person knowledgeable about healthcare management in the event others on the list aren’t available. Know what hospital(s) they prefer–or their doctors are affiliated with–should there be an emergency.

2. Make the contact list (3 people). Keep it in an easy-to-find place. 

3. Two additional lists–medications (dosage and frequency) as well as list of allergies and medical issues–keep with the contact list.

4. If parents have a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) directive, it’s essential that 911 responders (if called) have–or can easily find– the DNR (otherwise they must do all they can to save a life).

5.  When elders have a good mind and want to participate in–or dictate– actions taken for their care, we need to ask ourselves “what’s the goal” (as did RHW’s wife); then decide how involved we need to be.

6. For elders still working, it’s important that their emergency contact information at work stays updated.

7. US News’ Best Hospitals yearly publication in July is an invaluable resource and good conversation-starter. This link from CBS News about the 2013-2014 publication contains a video with excellent additional advice–including having an “electronic healthcare buddy.” Don’t miss it. 

Yet, with our busy lives, will we set aside time for the 7 to-do’s? We know, intellectually, that being prepared saves time. In our situations it can help parents age well–or at least better–and save us some additional stress

Help Aging Parents: Storms and Pending Disasters

NYC 57th & 6th: Storm Victim of Sandy–Crane No Longer Atop Bldg.

The dire Sandy hurricane/tropical storm warnings in the NY Metropolitan area couldn’t be missed. Media people and Mayor Bloomberg et al.–as well as New Jersey’s media people and Governor Chris Christi et al.–must be sleep deprived as I write this. We’ve seen and/or heard from them continually with warnings, information, and updates on most channels since Sunday night.

We worry about older and old people, especially aging parents. Cell phones are often the only way to contact them. We hope–as we phone to check on them–that they are keeping their cell phones charged. (Soon I’ll compile a list of suggestions for aging parents and older people experiencing a storm or other emergency alert.) Older people aren’t always as compulsive about charging their phones as younger people– as many of us know.

Are the older people we know in a safe place? Will they be warm if the electricity goes? Can they prepare food on a gas stove or cooktop? Do they have fresh–as well as nonperishable food? And do they have adequate water to drink–as well as to flush toilets–should power go out in their apartment building?

We worry–and many older people worry–about pets. Animal (and fish) lovers called NY 1 (NYC’s all-news cable station) to ask about the NY aquarium at Coney Island (it was under water and assessment of the damage has not been determined as of this writing), as well as the Central Park and Bronx zoos

A fallen branch at Central Park Zoo today tempts llama but is quickly taken away

(reportedly all is well at the zoos).

Being an animal lover, I was heartened when the pet-friendly shelters (owners and pets welcome) were announced. Sometimes–perhaps more than “sometimes”–pets are an old person’s closest friend. Understandably older people can be reluctant to leave their home/apartment because of their pets. The difficulty of moving temporarily or the worry that their homes could be looted if no one is home compounds their concerns.

I made my calls to my octogenarian friends in harm’s way. All were safe and comfortable–with one exception: a 90-year-old widower. He was safe in his home where he’s alone at night but has help during the day. But he was not comfortable.

It seems the spouse of a former caregiver for his wife, living in an evacuation area, had just phoned, wanting to stay at his home–with a friend–until it was safe to return home. My 90-year-old friend was stressed. A kind man, he told the spouse it would be difficult to house 2 additional people, but to phone back if there wasn’t another place to stay. My phone call allowed him to express his anxiety and gain support and a strategy should the spouse phone again.

People can do strange things in emergencies. Asking a 90-year-old to take in two people, one of whom he doesn’t know–for a day or possibly more in an emergency situation, seems like an unthinking (or idiotic) request, doesn’t it?

Affirmation that he needn’t take on a responsibility–at 90–that was causing him anxiety, and the suggestion that he watch the caller ID# when his phone rings and only answer calls from his far-away-living children, was a start. The fact that he can’t see caller ID’s, prompted my suggestion of placing a magnifying glass near the phone. The big “THANK YOU SO MUCH” confirmed that his mind was more at ease.

A simple phone call to elderly people in impending storm or emergency situations can turn out to be more than just a call to say “I care.” It’s another way we can contribute to helping parents (and older people we care about) age well.