Dr. Mor's Column - October
EMERGENCY PLAN FOR OUR PARENTS
By Eva Mor, PhD Author of "Making the Golden Years Golden"

In 2011 the first baby boomers will turn 65 years old, according to the U.S. Census. This particular group of seniors will increase at a rapid pace, reaching 72 million within the next 20 years, which is double the number of seniors there were in the year 2000. As the American population ages, the rate at which the number of seniors 65 and older grows will accelerate to represent 20 percent of the total population, according to the U.S. Census.

According to AARP, 80 percent of seniors have at least one chronic health condition, and 50 percent of seniors have at least two, including hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, etc. Many seniors live in an unsafe environment, and are susceptible to injuries by falls or taking their medications at inappropriate times or doses. I believe that this places a great responsibility on family members and caregivers and health services providers to educate seniors on precautions that should be taken. We as the support system of the seniors must make sure that an emergency plan is put in place, which will help them to prepare for future needs.

In this imperfect environment our health care is provided through multiple sources and specialists. It is not easy to navigate the many options that are available, or to find substitutes where there are not, it is upon us to reach out and help. One of the basic things that each senior should have is an Emergency Plan of Action. Such a plan need not be complex, and you may want to offer to your parent such a list to help them protect themselves. In my book Making the Golden Years Golden I have an extensive emergency plan of action. Here is a sample of the plan in a short form:

EMERGENCY PLAN OF ACTION

  1. Know to recognize the signs of decline and be ready to step-in. You may be the one that upon noticing mental or physical changes needs to establish greater oversight. Among changes that you may notice are signs of neglect, confusion, clothing soiled, and/or a significant loss of weight, which are all indicators of crisis that need to be addressed. If upon visiting we notice neglect, foul odor, a senior that is still in his or her night clothing at mid day, it should alert us that intervention is needed.
  2. Advise your parent that they will need to protect themselves legally. They need to put in place legal instruments such as Power of Attorney, Living Will, and Health Proxy. They need to know that they should choose a Health Proxy representative that will be available to the health care providers at a time when the patient is not able to voice his or her wishes. Your parent may naturally choose you as his or her health proxy, but if you live far from them, you may want to share that responsibility with someone, a relative or a friend, that live near your parent, and can be available in time of emergency.
  3. Advise your parent to be on the alert for scamming. Last year Americans were scammed to the tune of 60 billion dollars. According to the AARP a third of this amount was scammed out of the elderly. In my opinion this number is actually much higher as many of the seniors do not realize that they were scammed, or are embarrassed to report the fact that they were scammed. Advise your parent not to accept phone marketing calls, and just hang up. They should never give out personal information, such as social security number or bank account number, over the phone.
  4. Advise your parent or their care giver to keep an up-to-date list of their medication. Recommend that they keep a list of medications that is current, which includes name, dosage and mode of usage. Due to multiple health issues, and care provided by several specialists, all doctors should be made aware as to what the others are prescribing. Advise your parent to take a copy of this list to all doctorsí appointments. There are many aids to pre-pour medication to help the elderly to avoid either taking meds twice, not remembering if they took the medication already, or forgetting to take the medication altogether.
  5. Help your parent to develop a list of emergency contacts, such as their children, other relatives, neighbors, or anyone that can be of help in a time of emergency. Your parent needs to have on this list the names of all the physicians that he or she currently receives care from. The doctors need to be listed by name, specialty, and with phone numbers and addresses. If home care is provided through an agency, the contact information of the agency should be included on this list.
  6. Suggest to your parent to develop a list of his or her personal information, to include Medicare card information, Social Security and Insurance information. This information should be at their finger tips, for quick retrieval in a time of emergency.
  7. Help your parent to safe-proof their home. 78% of injuries within the senior population occurs in their homes. The elderly needs someone to walk through their home and point out the safety measures that should be implemented. These should include safety bars in the bathroom, removing of area rugs, etc.. Suggest that they develop habits that will keep them safe, such as bringing a glass of water to the bed side, to avoid trips to the kitchen in the middle of the night. Leaving a light for the night, will reduce the chance of tripping and falling, or keeping a phone in the bathroom and next to their bed, etc.
According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality 79% of seniors are living in their own home with or without assistance, but most can benefit from assistance. Many of the seniors do not have someone to step in and put in place a plan for them, so the responsibility falls on all of us, the society at large to help to protect our seniors. As a first step letís protect our loved ones and help them develop an Emergency Plan of Action for their own protection. For more info: www.goldenyearsgolden.com