Emergency Care For You

Top 10 Tips for Taking an Elderly Parent to the Emergency Department

With America's rapidly growing elderly population, some more likely to have multiple, chronic health problems, the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) wants to arm caregivers with the necessary information for when they need to seek emergency care.

Caring for an elderly parent is one of the most important things an adult can do. It can also be one of the most difficult and stressful responsibilities, especially in times of medical crisis.

The nation's emergency physicians offer the following tips for taking a trip to the emergency department with your elderly parent:

Tip 1: Medical History Form: You and your parent's physicians can complete the Personal Medical History Form, which lists the medications your parent is taking, allergies as well as past and current medical conditions. Bring this form to the emergency department with your parent and give to the emergency physician. Also keep track and make sure your parent is taking medications correctly.

Tip 2: Bring Reading Materials: Make sure you have a book, magazine, or a newspaper to read while you are waiting for results or to see a physician. It will make the time pass more quickly and help keep your stress level lower.

Tip 3: Anticipate Admission: Bring a change of clothes and some personal items in case your parent is admitted to the hospital. You can always leave them in the car.

Tip 4: Know Physician Contacts: Do you know all the names of the doctors your parents see? You should. Take some time now and find out their names, contact information, why your mother or father sees them and how long they have been seeing them. Write it down and hand it to the doctor or nurse in the emergency department. If you are traveling, have copies of the most recent doctor summary and a copy of an EKG if it is abnormal.

Tip 5: Convey Parent's State of Mind: You know your parent better than the doctor. If he or she seems confused, explain to the physician what "normal" behavior is like. If the doctor is talking to you, make sure you are talking to your parent. Do your best to make sure they understand what is going on. The doctors may have to run tests, conduct an examination or be admitted to the hospital. Keep the conversation open with your parent.

Tip 6: Consider Living Wills: A difficult thought, but important nonetheless. It's one to prepare for. If a condition is life-threatening, you need know what the plan will be and what your parents' wishes are. Do your parents have living wills or known care desires if conditions become critical?

Tip 7: Report on Recent Surgeries: Keep track of surgeries, especially ones involving implanted devices such as hip replacements, or pace makers.

Tip 8: Simplify Insurance Information: Have a single sheet of paper with insurance and identification information.

Tip 9: Resist Downplaying: Realize that elderly patients often will talk down their symptoms to doctors or nurses and only tell it like it is to family members. Be ready to fill in the additional information if necessary.

Tip 10: Be Patient: Realize the more the complaints (almost always the older the patient), the longer it takes to work up the problems. Be patient with your physicians and your parent.