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It’s the middle of the night. You wake up and your loved one is shaking with chills. He is ill. You feel him and he doesn’t feel hot…yet. But you know this is a serious symptom. There is no reason to dress him. If he can’t get up and walk, just call the ambulance. While you are waiting, get yourself dressed in comfortable clothes. Take a few deep breaths so you can think clearly!When you have an emergency, grab these items to make your time at the ER/hospital most effective. Click To Tweet
You need to be ready for this. This is what you need to grab and toss in a bag:
- your notebook
- list of medications with doses or grab the meds from the place you keep them (whichever is easier)
- his proof of insurance
- his ID (driver’s license) (I usually grab his wallet and toss it in my purse)
- charging cords for the phones along with the phones
- socks for him and me
- sweater for me for when I get cold in the hospital
- my computer and its charger
- other reading material for while I’m waiting. There will be a lot of that.
- maybe an extra pair of pajama pants
- add any other preferences to your list such as brush/comb, toothbrush, etc. just the basics.
By this time the ambulance is there or you are ready to head out the door with him to the car for the ER. Depending on the time of day or night, you can notify your kids (brothers/sisters if it is a parent) after you get to the hospital. I usually notify my local daughter by phone or text. But wait to notify others until I have a better idea of what is happening for later. If he is having chills, they will be letting him in fast…even faster if he came in the ambulance!
Of course, I gave one illustration, but there are many others. You don’t always know if he will be admitted, but go there prepared for an admission. It will save you having to turn around for home to get supplies after hours of waiting. If he is going to have IV’s, he will need a hospital gown but may want pajama pants to keep warm.
If there is a fever or the suspicion of an infection, IV’s will be started and blood cultures will be drawn. That way they will be able to start antibiotics if an infection is found without having to back-up later. They usually check his lungs (chest Xray/CT chest) and bladder (urinary tract infection) for the most common places an infection will be. If there is abdominal pain, they may check further into that for an infection there. As it turned out in our case, it took a CT of the lung to find a small pneumonia hiding out. IV antibiotics were started and we had a 3-day hospital stay.
Infections show themselves differently in the elderly than they do when we are younger
In the case of the elderly, it is important to know that infections can show themselves in interesting ways. Increased confusion can be a sign of infection. You may want to call your doctor if that symptom starts showing up for no apparent reason. Also, they may not have elevated temperatures until they are nearly septic (the infection has become systemic.) The other problem with older adults is that they can become septic quite quickly. That is a very dangerous condition that you don’t want to have to deal with at all! So, I gave you the scenario of an emergency in the middle of the night with a problem that is new to us.
The other problem is when they have a repeat of an illness they have had in the past.
All have happened to us this year! It was late afternoon. Ron was in the shower and I heard a thud. I ran in and he caught himself from falling but his left leg had given out and his speech was very garbled. I sat him down on the shower stool and rinsed him off. Then got him out and sat him on the toilet to dry him off. He briefly lost consciousness but woke up by the time I had him dry.
I called the ambulance because he wasn’t going to be able to get to the car. Then I called my daughter because I wasn’t close to being ready to get to the ER. She was going to meet them there while I got ready. Since Ron was awake, I sent his ID, etc. with him.
Then I got my shower, collected myself and got my bag ready as listed above. We went through all the steps we went through before except that they were slower because it was a Saturday afternoon and the ER was jammed. Yes, we got in right away, but everything was backed up and running behind. His IV was started right away and he was sent for his CT scan. For this admission, we were in the hospital for a few days as well while they tried to figure out why he had this stroke. We finally went home with no good answers and some medication changes.
That’s often what happens after this kind of admission. More tests, not always a lot of answers, then some medication changes and follow-up appointments with your doctor(s).
My post got too long again so I had to split it. I have more on emergencies and emergency rooms coming in Part II. (to be continued)