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Nighttime 911: Preparing for and Handling the Unexpected

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When the thing that goes BUMP in the night is mom or dad, do you have a plan?

For many of us with aging parents, the possibility of a late-night emergency is very real. If a loved one experiences an unexpected accident or health issue in the middle of the night will you be prepared?

Having a plan in place before you receive that call helps you focus on what needs to be done and may prevent poor decision making during a stressful situation.

Let’s look at some ideas for preparing in advance.

Prep Step #1: Create a Master Contact List

Create two groups of contacts in one list.

The first is local support. This is especially important if you don’t live close to your parent(s). Local support consists of neighbors, friends or church members who live nearby and can get to your parent’s house quickly when needed.

The second group includes siblings, other family members and close friends. These are the people you trust to follow through with any of these tasks:

  1. Go to the hospital
  2. Grab the “go-bag” from your parent’s house (we’ll discuss this later)
  3. Notify others of the situation

Keep this list of names and phone numbers all in one place and give copies to people on the list — a digital version can be the best option if it can be accessed from a phone.

Tip: Provide access to a house key, whether individual copies or the location of a hidden key.

Prep Step #2: Gather Personal Information and Documents

Emergency staff will need to know detailed information about your parent. Have the following readily available on a one-sheet list:

  • Health insurance information — contact and policy number(s)
  • Name and number of primary care provider, plus any specialists (cardiologist, oncologist, etc.)
  • List of medications and dosages
  • Description of medical conditions including any recent surgeries
  • Allergies, if any
  • Emergency contact information

Also, make copies of important legal and medical documents:

  • Advanced Directive
  • Healthcare Proxy
  • Power of Attorney
  • Front and back of insurance card(s)

Tip: Give this list and document copies to anyone who may be a first responder to the hospital. If paper works best for you, keep copies for yourself in various places: briefcase, glove compartment and at your parent’s home. Just remember that a digital version can be updated as needed and everyone will have access to the most current version at all times.

Prep Step #3: The Go-Bag

Used by expecting mothers and FBI profilers (think Criminal Minds), a pre-packed bag is a huge time (and stress) saver.

  • Change of clothing — a clean pair of undergarments at the very least
  • Personal toiletry items like toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush or comb, denture container, eye drops
  • A one-day supply of all medications
  • Hearing aid batteries
  • Phone charger
  • Comfort item — a special photo, blanket, Bible
  • A small amount of cash

Being prepared not only simplifies the steps for handling that midnight call but makes the process more efficient.

So, what’s next?

The Action Plan

Here’s our step-by-step guide for managing the unexpected.

  1. Assess the situation. If emergency services are not on the way, contact a local support member to check on your parent.
  2. If mom is on the way to the hospital, contact people from the second group and assign tasks as needed.
  3. If you cannot get to the hospital right away, remind the designated person to take their copy of personal information and documents.
  4. Assign someone (or go yourself) to pick up the go-bag.
  5. Make arrangements for pets.

With some thoughtful advanced preparation, the above steps become more manageable and you can focus on what’s most important: Mom or Dad.

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