Samarth Eldercare
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Emergency Preparedness in Home Care: Ensuring Safety for Elderly at Home

One of the top-of-mind concerns for any person who has ageing parents is “What will happen if there is an emergency involving the elderly”. If you are living in a different country or city, away from your parents, and if a parent has a health condition, has had an episode, or if he/she living alone, then this becomes perhaps the biggest worry for a child. Our discussions with thousands of Indians worldwide, whose parents we care for in India, often started with this question. In each one of my webinars on parent care, this issue invariably gets raised by the participants. 

As a responsible and loving child, you want to ensure that your elderly parent is prepared for any emergency and has a plan to cope with it. You also want to stay connected and informed about their situation and provide them with the necessary support and assistance. How do you set yourself and your parents up to deal with emergencies? What essential safety measures for seniors can you put in place? How can caregivers manage crisis in the most effective manner? 

 

Here we share an approach for dealing with health emergencies with seniors at home, which is based on our extensive experience over more than seven years. Just to give an idea, between thousands of requests we handle every month, there are on an average 5 emergencies and hospitalizations our team manages every week in some part of India. As we endeavor to support families under our care with Everything, Everywhere, Every time, emergency response forms one of the critical pillars of support. Of course, with Samarth, every emergency is supported by the full resources of our organization, which is not what everyone may have access to all the time. But the approach and many of the lessons can be utilized by every caring son or daughter. We call it the 3-I approach: Informed – Integrated – Intelligent

Understanding the Need for Home Care Emergency Plans for Elderly

The first principal of handling health crisis and emergency in the best possible way is to prepare and plan for it. If you invest a little bit of time in preparation, it will put your mind at ease, and also increases the speed and effectiveness of the response whenever the emergency arises.  This means preparing an Emergency Preparedness Home Care (EPHC) plan. At Samarth we call it the Emergency Protocol, which every family with elderly members must have – written down and readily accessible. Having an  Emergency Preparedness Home Care plan with the required details ensures that should an emergency arise, there is no time lost in thinking and figuring out what to do and how to proceed immediately. Sometimes, this is the difference between life and death. We all know the importance of the golden hour.  

Assessing Risks and Creating a Plan with Checklists

The planning starts with thinking systematically and being aware of the health risks the elderly face.  It involves:

  • Collating information and answering questions about health conditions, prescriptions, episodes, allergies, recent test reports etc. 
  • Talking to people and enlisting their help for emergency response. 
  • Documenting answers and information pertaining to the risks and anticipated needs.
  • Finally, making this documentation easily accessible and known to all those who may be part of responding to the emergency.  

The plan should include: 

  • Your parent’s medical history, current medications, allergies, and health conditions
  • Your parent’s primary care provider, specialists, and pharmacy contact details
  • Your parent’s insurance information and copies of important documents
  • Your parent’s advance directives, such as living will, power of attorney, and do-not-resuscitate order
  • Your parent’s emergency contacts, such as family members, friends, neighbors, and local authorities
  • Your parent’s preferred hospital or care facility
  • Your parent’s home address and location of keys, locks, and alarms
  • Your parent’s special needs, such as dietary restrictions, mobility aids, oxygen therapy, etc.

This is meant to ensure that our response to emergency is Informed – our first I.

You should work with your elderly parent and their immediate caregiver, if there is one, to create the Emergency Preparedness Home Care (EPHC) plan and review it regularly. To make sure that the plan is accessible and easy to understand for them, you can print copies of the plan and store them in a safe and visible place, such as near the phone, or on the refrigerator. You can also share the plan electronically with them and other emergency contacts. 

Building a Support Network for Remote Caregivers

This brings us to the second I – Integrated. When an emergency happens, you want all resources to be brought to bear in addressing it. There are security and other agencies who arrange for a person to rush to the elder’s home if an emergency is reported. Unless that person is a doctor, it may not be very helpful. It would be better to get a friendly neighbor, who will be the quickest to reach the quickest, to visit and check.

If the elder has had a health episode, then the goal should be to get a doctor to attend and advise as quickly as possible. Sometimes it may be possible to get an ambulance which has a junior doctor accompanying. This is our preferred response at Samarth. If not, try to get the patient to an ER where there is a doctor. At times, a tele-consult with a doctor may also help while the ambulance is on the way.

Creating a network of all those who can help including the caregivers, neighbors, local relatives, treating doctor can help make sure that the response is integrated, leveraging the person best positioned to help in the instance. For elders in Samarth’s care, we identify, engage with and familiarize all such people who can help in case of emergency including the Samarth 24X7 emergency response, and setup a response protocol to ensure maximum effectiveness. We ensure that all relevant details, contacts and documents are available in a vault accessible to all family members in an app, so that no time is lost in taking action. 

 

Essential Steps for Crisis Management for Caregivers in Senior Home Care

The management of crisis or emergency also needs to be Intelligent – the 3rd I. The caregiver, who in many cases may be the spouse, must stay calm. While being prepared, informed and having a prioritized protocol with a support network will give a lot of confidence to the caregiver, situations like these can throw anyone into a state of panic. This is when suboptimal decisions can be taken risking even the life of the person in an emergency situation. An intelligent responder should be able to utilize the information available, know when and how to reach out to another expert or family member and determine an appropriate course of action. So some solutions which involve a person showing up from somewhere may neither be timely nor helpful. At Samarth the emergency response team has access to the support network and to expert resources to suggest and initiate the optimal response. The Samarth care team manager is also familiar with the patient’s history, has a trust based relationship with the elderly and the family, and has the intellect to offer an intelligent response. 

Leveraging Technology for Remote Monitoring for Elder Home Care

These days there are technology solutions which can enhance safety in senior care and communication in case of a health emergency. Some examples of technology that can help are:

  • Medical alert systems, such as bracelets, pendants, or apps, that can automatically notify you and emergency services if your parent falls or needs help
  • Smart home devices, such as cameras, sensors, or voice assistants, that can monitor your parent’s activity, detect anomalies, and allow remote control
  • Telehealth services, such as online consultations, prescriptions, or monitoring, that can provide your parent with convenient and timely access to healthcare
  • Communication platforms such as WhatsApp, or Zoom, that can help your parent stay connected and informed with you and the support network

However, one has to discuss and choose the technology that suits your parent’s needs and preferences. You should also ensure that your parent and their caregiver are familiar and comfortable with using the technology. For example, not a lot of elders like continuous use of wearables. 

At Samarth we offer SOS button to the elderly in our care through the Samarth Privilege app which also offers many other engagement and utility features. In addition, we help programme the Samarth 24X7 emergency number on their speed dial. In cases where higher risks are involved, we also help install other safety devices and train the caregiver. 

 

Staying Informed: Resources for Emergency Preparedness

There are several resources online for more details and suggestions on emergency preparedness for elderly at home. These include:

  • Centre for Disease Control
  • American Redcross
  • AARP
  • Samarth Community
  • Helpage 

Preparing for health emergencies with elderly at home can be challenging in the beginning, but it can also be reassuring. The 3-I approach: 

  • Informed, by creating an emergency preparedness home care plan, preparing emergency checklists, making crucial information available to everyone concerned
  • Integrated, by building a support network, and leveraging technology
  • Intelligent, by ensuring appropriate person is helping manage the emergency

can help you and your parents cope with health emergencies and provide the best possible care. Remember that you are not alone in this journey and that there are many resources and support available to help you and your parent. Stay safe and healthy!

How Samarth Can Help?

Samarth Elder Care stands as a pivotal ally in providing dignified and joyful living for the elderly. With its comprehensive elderly home health care services tailored for families in India and abroad, Samarth ensures personalized, professional care for every senior. From customized care plans to quality at-home services, Samarth is dedicated to improving elder well-being. Choose Samarth and ensure your loved ones receive the compassionate care they need.

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