Emergency department (ER) visits usually do not occur during the day. Emergency situations come when it is dark or at dinner time or just as you’ve dozed off to sleep; never when you are full of energy and completely alert. That is why it is important for you to have all the necessary and current information for your loved one, as well as some items for yourself, in one convenient location so you can grab and go when an emergency arises.
For the patient
- Patient’s ID: insurance card, Medicare/Medicaid card and supplemental insurance information, driver’s license or other photo identification. The triage staff will make copies for their records and to verify insurance coverage.
- List of patient’s allergies to medications, foods and materials. Most emergency departments use paper tape and non-latex gloves but it doesn’t hurt to let the staff know what may trigger an allergic reaction.
- A list of all medications (prescription, over-the-counter, herbal) being taken.
- Note of any unusual or adverse reactions to medications and other new symptoms, such as loss of appetite, or changes in mood or behavior.
- All medications that will need to be administered in the ensuing hours. For example, a medication that is given every four hours and was taken three hours ago, bring with you.
- A current record of medications taken over the past 24 hours: time given, dosage, next due.
- List of all physicians currently involved with your loved one’s care.
- List of surgeries, treatments (chemo, radiation), their dates and locations.
- A copy of all healthcare documents: Power of Attorney for Healthcare, Health Care Proxy, Living Will, Advanced Directive, DNR.
For the caregiver
- Any medications that you take on a regular basis. Do not neglect your own prescription protocol.
- Emergency contact list with names and phone numbers. Cellphones make this much easier – all the information should be at your fingertips. Don’t forget your cellphone charger.
- A small notebook and pen/pencil. You should list every ED staff member (physician, nurse, technician and administrator) as they become involved with your loved one’s care. Note any medications given – time and dosage – if possible, as well as tests or scans. These notes will be invaluable if a hospital stay is required. Floor staff do not always have time to go over the chart before your loved one arrives from the ED. They will look to you for the most recent information while getting your loved one settled into the room.
- Antacids, breath mints and over-the-counter pain relievers. Most hospital gift shops are not open 24 hours.
- Reading materials – book/Nook/Kindle; Sudoku, crossword puzzles, note cards with envelopes. These items help pass the time while waiting for your loved one to return from tests or scans. Remember to bring the charger.
- Reading glasses, if needed. Inexpensive “readers” can be purchased at your local pharmacy.
- A thick pair of socks, a shawl or sweater. ED’s are kept cold for a reason and your comfort is not a consideration.
- Snacks. Energy bars, granola bars, nuts, dried fruit and, very importantly, bottled water. Staying hydrated is paramount. And you may not have time to get to a vending machine or the hospital cafeteria so those snacks can help you maintain your energy level.
- Case and solution for contact lenses. Your glasses.
Customizing the kit
After your first ED visit you can reevaluate the contents of your kit and either add items that you found you were lacking or remove the items that were not useful. Ideally, you will never have to use the kit again. That may not be realistic.
Having your loved one’s basic medical information in one place along with a few comfort items and necessities for yourself will go a long way in making any visit to the ED tolerable.