Adequate, timely information is vital to eldercare. It is important no matter where you, the family caregiver, are located. Without it, symptoms may be missed and a chance for one last conversation lost forever.
There are some rules that should be commonsense. These rules apply to someone on hospice and to someone who doesn’t require such intensive watching. With all of the technology available, it shouldn’t be that hard.
Who do I call? There are a number of people and agencies that may require information. Depending on circumstances, you may need to call 911, the patient’s doctor and definitely the patient’s family.
What order do I call them in? That will depend on the severity of the symptoms and whether or not the patient is on hospice. If it’s serious, call 911 first, unless the patient is on hospice. In that case, there is an 800 number provided. After this is done, then call the family.
Where should the phone numbers be? Necessary phone numbers should be posted over the phone. If the family has more than one phone number, each should be listed in large (14 point is good) writing. Even if the caretaker is a family member that has known the numbers for years should have this list. It’s easy to forget things in an emergency and it may be needed.
Can I just leave a message on the answering machine? No, you absolutely cannot just leave a message on an answering machine. Not everybody has one. Not everybody checks them regularly. If it’s a cell phone, the message may not be deliverable for any number of reasons. Call until you get a human.
Why is this important? Here is an example. Last night, our elder fell out of bed. The caregiver apparently tried to call my cell phone. I don’t keep my cell phone in my pocket 24 hours a day. I also don’t use the message system on it. Our landline number is right underneath the cell phone number. That is on 24/7 and answered if we’re at home…which we were.
I didn’t find out about it until a good ten *hours* after it happened. Today’s caregiver found it in the notes taken during that shift. Is our elder ok? I don’t know yet. All the stuff that should have been done last night was not done. The nurse is only just now going to see if she’s hurt. If she has been injured, the golden hour was gone a long time ago.
It isn’t that difficult. The numbers, if they are clearly posted, aren’t that hard to press. It will scare me. It might make me mad. However, if you’re worried I’ll get mad, try not telling me. That is guaranteed to bring a surge of anger. Please, pick up the phone and call the people who need to know.