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Crisis Planning

Many adult children are unprepared for a parent's medical crisis.  Incorporating a plan of prevention, knowledge, involvement, and preparation can ensure that your parent receives the best medical care possible when a crisis happens.

Whether your parent lives in their own home, in an assisted living facility, or with you, there's nothing scarier than watching your mom or dad experience a major medical emergency. Often, the first time we realize that an aging parent needs our help is when we get a call from a hospital informing us that our loved one has been transported to the emergency room. Still, there are ways to ensure that both you and your aging parent are prepared in the event of a medical emergency.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This simple saying should be the mantra of all caregivers of an aging parent. Ensuring that seniors receive adequate and regular medical care and that they take all prescribed medications properly can go a long way toward preventing a medical emergency. As your parents age, look for signs that they may need help managing their own health care. And make sure they get that care by scheduling regular appointments with all physicians and specialists, if they can't do this on their own, and making sure they keep them.

Nothing makes the child of an aging parent feel more helpless than when he or she can't answer simple questions about their medical condition, especially during a medical crisis. Often, not knowing what medications an elderly parent takes, their medical conditions and medical provider information can be more than just frustrating, it can result in complications or, worse, a delay in providing needed emergency medical care. Compile all this information immediately and make copies of it. This may involve going through their old medical receipts and looking at all prescription drug bottles to put it all together.

Get involved! The only way to ensure that you know what's going on with your parent is to get involved. Sit down with mom and dad and discuss their wishes for catastrophic medical care. Help them writing a living will. Make sure they have a traditional will in place, too. Go with them to doctor offices if necessary so that you know what the specific medical conditions and medications are in play. As your parents get older, it becomes more important to become involved in their health care so that you can speak for them in the event of a medical emergency situation during which they might not be able to speak for themselves.

Preparing for a medical emergency before it happens enhances your peace of mind, as well as that of your aging parent. Being prepared also helps ensure that your parent will receive immediate and adequate critical care in the event of a medical crisis. Make sure that your parents have that list you compiled of all medications, health conditions and medical providers on their refrigerator at all times. Give a copy of this list to all other trusted caregivers. Update the list frequently to ensure that emergency care providers have the information they need to treat your parent, should the need arise.

You always hope that your parent will never face an emergency, but if they do, you'll be better able to cope and you'll be a better caregiver if you are prepared for one.