Keep updating medical data

By Valerie
February 17, 2011

I recently received a late-night phone call from a friend whose mother was in hospital after a fall. Needless to say, there was panic and uncertainty in her voice.

I started asking some questions around the severity of her mom’s fall, if she was being admitted to hospital, and the physician’s diagnosis and possible treatment. I was met on the other end with complete silence followed by, “The last five hours were a blur, and I feel like I don’t know anything more than when we first arrived at the ER!”

Most emergency room (ER) staff likely see this same situation over and over again.

In British Columbia, just fewer than half of all seniors 65 and older make a trip to their local hospital emergency. Risk of hospitalization increases with age, especially for those older than 85.

A fall, stroke, heart attack, viruses and infections, and sudden onset confusion (more commonly referred to as delirium) are the most common reasons for a trip to the ER.

Since we can’t bubble-wrap ourselves or our aging loved ones, the best we can do is keep critical information on hand in the event it’s required, including:

Of course, with any medical information, it’s best to stay current! Updating medical information is unlikely to be at the top of your to-do list; consider putting it in your calendar or Blackberry in three-to0 six month intervals. Kinda like cleaning the fishbowl!

Make copies of your medical information and keep it in different locations. For example, some people keep a copy taped on the back of their bedroom door or on the fridge. It’s always handy for other family or neighbours to have a copy, too.

The Medicine Shoppe in Comox provides a great tool called Lifesafe, which is a plastic vial that holds all of your medical information, and is stored in your refrigerator. It’s very handy for the paramedics or firemen to quickly locate and provides vital medical information and your medical history.

Finally, most trips to the ER are lengthy, so don’t forget to pack your patience!

This column is one in a series focusing on strategies and tools to survive visits to the ER and extended hospital visits. In two weeks, we’ll tackle what to expect in the ER and how to communicate and establish good relationships with hospital staff.

Wendy Johnstone is a gerontologist and the founder of Keystone Eldercare Solutions. Her column runs in the Comox Valley Record every second Friday.

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“You are amazing! What I tried to do in 2 months, you did in 1 week. You’ve helped us navigate the system, made sense of Mom’s disease, and gave back her independence and control. Thank you for making such a difference in Mom’s life and giving us, her family, complete peace of mind.”

– Mike G., Nanaimo, BC