The Emergency Room Toolkit: Ten Essential Items for Caregivers

Perhaps it’s because a handful of our friends and family members have ended up in the hospital this summer that I have emergency rooms on the brain. I certainly hope it’s not because my husband and I just decided to participate in two running races in the next two months and I harbor unconscious fears of torn hamstrings.

Either way, it occurred to me that emergency room trips are often the last thing that caregivers need amidst the juggling already required of them. The fear surrounding a loved one’s illness or injury is compounded by the logistical nightmare of making an emergency room visit. If you have been through this, please know that I hold the utmost respect for what this entails.

© Pam Roth
© Pam Roth

Oftentimes, the circumstances that lead to an emergency room visit are sudden and critical. There is little time to prepare, let alone to remember to pack everything you might need. For this reason, I strongly encourage you to pack an emergency room toolkit in a shoulder bag or briefcase that you can grab in an instant as you head out the door.

Here are ten essential items caregivers should include in this toolkit:

  1. Health insurance information, including your loved one’s identification card (if you only have one card, place a sticky note on the bag that reminds you to bring this).
  2. A list of prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements your family member is taking, including names and doses. Bring multiple copies in case you are asked for it more than once during the ER admission and evaluation process.
  3. A list of your loved one’s medical problems and diagnoses, as well as any allergies.
  4. Copies of recent lab results and imaging film (MRIs, PET scans, X-rays, etc.), if you have them.
  5. Legal documents that allow you to be involved in your family member’s care, such as a medical durable power of attorney, and documents that specify your family member’s wishes, such as a living will.
  6. Contact information for all health professionals involved in your loved one’s care.
  7. Contact information for friends and family members who assist in caring for your relative (including yourself).
  8. A notebook and pen to record notes and instructions from the medical team.
  9. Reading material, crossword puzzles, or other activities to keep you and/or your loved one occupied if there is a wait for treatment (which there almost always is, aside from life-threatening situations).
  10. Bottled water and snacks to stay hydrated and to maintain adequate blood sugar levels during what could become a long day.

For more information about what to expect during an emergency room visit as well as how to prepare, check out this cool guide by the Next Step in Care. And please share what else you would put in your emergency room toolkit. You might help a fellow caregiver ensure his or her readiness for an otherwise stressful trip to the hospital.

Related post: Five Things Caregivers Need to Know about Hospitalists

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