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Preparing for a Medical Emergency – It’s in the Bag!

If you’re a caregiver for a senior family member, it’s important to be prepared for an emergency visit to the hospital. We hope it never happens, of course, but there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be in the emergency room at some point. When it happens, you need to be prepared. 

emergency bag for seniors

I recommend you put together a small travel bag with some of the items listed below:

  • Create a list of all the medications that your senior takes regularly, including over-the-counter medicines, how often they need to take the meds, and the number of pills they take with each dose. The paramedics will ask you for this list, the nurse will ask you for the list, the doctors will ask you for this list, the registration desk will ask you for the list, the X-ray technician will ask you for the list. If you have a copier, make at least 10 copies and you can just hand the list to each of them. It could save several minutes of precious time.
  • If you don’t have one yet, you need to get a Medical Power of Attorney and make sure you have it in your bag. The Medical POA is critical in obtaining information of any kind about your senior. It needs to be prepared in advance, signed and notarized. Without this, HIPA regulations prevent the hospital from releasing even basic information to you.
  • Add the original insurance cards to your bag plus at least 5 more copies. Some cards have a front and back – make sure you copy both sides. When you get a new card, remember to take out the old copies and put new copies in the bag.
  • Keep a 2-3 copies of your senior’s drivers license or other picture ID in the bag. The ambulance crew may accidently take the originals when transporting your senior. A few copies may come in handy.
  • Start an electronic document (in Word or online) and update it frequently with all medical procedures, what hospitals your senior has stayed in, any conditions, allergies, medical allergies, and any other medical ailments. Everytime you update the document, print a few copies for the bag. Again, you will be asked for this info many times.
  • Keep a sheet of all the phone numbers and other contact info (websites, fax numbers, email addresses, cell phone, etc.) doctors, ministers, lawyers, friends and relatives in your notebook. If your stay at the hospital is an extended one, count on your cell phone battery dying. In some hospitals, they don’t allow cell phones. Either way, a printed list will come in handy.
  • Everytime you visit one of your senior’s doctors, pick up at least two business cards on your next visit. Put one in a folder in your home and put the other one the bag.
  • Be prepared for a long stay in the ER. Add a book, a deck of cards, a travel game, or anything that can keep your mind occupied during your visit. Remember, the magazines in a doctor’s office have been touched by several months worth of sick people.
  • Add a few toiletry items to the bag for yourself and your senior – a toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, aspirin (for you), deodorant, and anything else you may need. A few wet wipes, hand sanitizer and a package of tissues might come in handy too.
  • If there are other things that won’t fit in the bag that your senior may need, add a list to the top of the bag so you can look at the list, then get the items on the list – such as oxygen tanks, walkers, splints, etc... Since it’s not practical to keep medicines in the emergency bag, you’ll have to remember to grab them on your way out the door.
  • prepare for senior emergency

Place your Emergency travel bag in a convenient location, perhaps near the door, so that you'll see it and grab it when you take off in a rush. If your family member is admitted you may need to spend the night at the hospital in order to see the doctor on call. I've noticed they seem to make rounds around midnight. After waiting hours for X-rays, blood work and other procedures, leaving without knowing what's wrong can be more stressful than missing a few hours of sleep.

I hope this helps,


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