Being in the hospital stinks.  There’s just no other way to describe it.  Whether it is a knee replacement planned months in advance, or an emergency appendectomy that brings your senior family member to the hospital, the experience can be stressful and somewhat unpredictable.  In this 4-part series, we will explore the before, during, and after of a typical hospital stay.   

Here are some ways you and your senior relative can prepare for a potential hospital stay.  Even if your senior loved one does not have any planned upcoming hospital stays (for example, a hip replacement), it is still a good idea to work through the following steps in case of emergency.
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  1. Make sure your loved one has designated a POA (power of attorney) for their healthcare and financial needs should they ever become incapacitated.  Note: these can be two different people.  Contact their local Area Agency on Aging for help setting this up (Franklin County: 785-242-7200, Douglas County: 785-832-0754.)  If your family member is over the age of 60, many times they can set up an appointment at no charge through the AAA to meet with an attorney and sign these documents.  Having these documents in place early before they are ever needed is the best way to go.  I have met many people who did not speak with their senior family member about POA’s until it was too late.  This creates problems down the line with handling their affairs when they are no longer able to.  Start the conversation early, before the need arises.
  2. Create a list of important information for yourself in case of emergency.  This list will help you give vital information to the hospital and will help you manage your loved one’s needs upon discharge.  This list should be updated regularly and should include the following:
    1. Their primary doctor’s contact info
    2. Contact info for any specialist they see regularly that is managing a specific condition (e.g. nephrologist, pain mgmt, recent surgeons, cardiologist)
    3. A list of their current medications, both prescription and over the counter (name, dose, frequency, prescribing doctor’s info)
    4. Their pharmacy contact info
    5. Their insurance contact info.  Most seniors will have Medicare (red, white, and blue card.)  Some may also have Medicaid (in Kansas, KanCare) or supplemental plans.
    6. A list of all diagnosis and health problems
    7. Contact info for a trusted neighbor of theirs who could be called upon to care for pets in their absence.
  3. Pick up a File of Life and Yellow Dot at no charge from the local AAA.  Both are wonderful ways to inform emergency personnel of your loved one’s vital health information at the scene of the emergency.  Both contain simple forms to record all of their vital health information in case of emergency.  The File of Life is a red, plastic envelope that is placed on the front of their refrigerator.  A red File of Life sticker is placed on their front door to alert emergency personnel to the envelope.  The Yellow Dot is a yellow, paper envelope that is placed in the glovebox of their vehicle.  A yellow sticker is placed on the back window to alert first responders in case of a car accident.  TIP: Fill out with pencil and update both frequently.

 

Next week–Part Two: What to Expect