How to Handle Medical Emergencies as a Caregiver

September 16, 2018
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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When a loved one is diagnosed with a serious medical condition, it’s second nature to want to take care of them. Preparing food, feeding them, fluffing their pillow, and reading to them is carried out with love. However, with illness also comes the possibility of medical emergencies. Would you know how to handle a medical emergency?

The first thing you need to remember is to remain calm. Freaking out is going to prevent you from thinking clearly and will scare the patient. Once you’ve had a chance to breathe and regroup, learn the following tips to be prepared in the case of a medical emergency.

5 Tips for Handling Medical Emergencies as a Caregiver

There’s no way to predict all the variables that could go wrong. But there are things you can do to mitigate missteps, such as:

1. Create a Checklist of Necessities

Always have a fully charged phone, cash, two first aid kits (one for the home and one for the car), a current medications list, and emergency contact information. Also, keep in a visible place the names and phone numbers of all doctors and specialists of the patient. If your loved one has a heart condition, be familiar with how to use a defibrillator and have one at home. If you’re providing regular care, it’s a good idea to be trained in CPR. If your loved one still retains independence and only needs sporadic caregiving, make sure they have a medical ID bracelet.

2. Be Aware of Conditions That Can Increase the Risk of Falls

If your loved one is on blood thinners and he or she suffers from a fall, they need to receive medical care immediately, even if you don’t see any bruising or bleeding. If they are over 65, the risk of fracture is extremely high, so don’t take any chances thinking that the pain will go away on its own. Other high risk factors include dementia or Parkinson’s Disease, diabetes, heart disease, and certain medications.

Related article: 20 Tips for Preventing Falls at Home

3. Recognize Symptoms of a Heart Attack or Stroke

If the patient you’re caring for is experiencing chest tightness, neck or jaw pain, slurred speech, numbness on a side of the face, shortness of breath, cold sweat, lightheadedness, or blurred vision, call for emergency help.

While waiting for paramedics to arrive, place the person in a sitting position and loosen their clothing around their neck and waist. If the person is conscious, have them chew on an aspirin tablet to reduce the risk of blood clots. If the patient is unconscious, yell for help, call 911, and initiate CPR.

4. Know What to Do in Case of a Medication Overdose

Call 911 immediately and read the back of the medication for instructions on how to ameliorate the situation. Be especially vigilant if you are taking care of a patient with mental health issues or someone who is taking several prescription medications. The most obvious signs of a medication overdose include the following:

  • Sleepiness
  • Skin temperature changes
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Increased pulse
  • Changes in breathing pattern
  • Seizures

If you take the patient to the emergency room yourself, bring the bottle of the medication they overdosed on.

One way to prevent an accidental drug overdose is to be familiar with abbreviations and read them carefully. It’s easy to confuse a teaspoon (tsp) with a tablespoon (tbsp), and know the differences between a milligram (mg) and a milliliter (ml).

Also, if you’re caring for a child, be aware that medication dosage may vary depending on the child’s weight and adjust accordingly. Finally, know where the closest hospital is located and program the number of a Poison Control Center into your phone.

5. Keep Copies of Medical Records Handy

When you go to scheduled doctor appointments, the medical office will generally have the patient’s file with information on prior treatment, medications, and any complications of their ailment. However, if your loved one needs to be rushed to an Emergency Room, the closest facility may not have vital background information.

Even if you think you’re familiar with the important information, it’s easy to draw a blank during stressful situations. Always err on the side of caution. Arming emergency personnel with this information could save your loved one’s life.

Contact Care Options for Kids for Home Health Care Services

If you’re acting as a caregiver for an ailing loved one, let us help you. At Care Options for Kids, we have an entire team of experienced caregivers who will ensure the wellbeing of your family member.

If you or an aging loved one are considering home health care services, contact the caring staff at Care Options for Kids. Call today at (888) 592-5855.