Vital Information: What Caregivers Need to Know

It's important to get the vital information to the right people when crisis hits.

Contributed by Haley Burress

If something happens to your loved one that requires medical professionals to rush into your home, are you confident that vital information such as Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders or personal contact information are easily available for a paramedic to grab on the way out of the door? Having medical and emergency information in a central location of the home is extremely important when someone has complex medical issues that might require emergency care. Whether you are preparing this vital information for your elderly parents or for your medically complex child, here is what you need to know.

What to include
When compiling vital information, how do you decide what is really important and what is something that you can bring over to the hospital later? Here’s a quick list of what should be included in your vital information folder.

  • Name and birthday of your loved one
  • Address and phone number of your loved one’s home (this is helpful to have in case the person who is looking in on your loved one does not know the address when s/he calls 911)
  • Emergency contact information
  • List of current medications and doses
  • List of allergies
  • List of any medical devices (pacemakers, etc.)
  • List of current doctors and office phone numbers
  • Insurance card copies
  • DNR orders and form
  • Power of Attorney (POA) forms

Once you start compiling information, it can be easy to add too much. Keep your intentions clear and only add information that is important to first responders who would be on the scene and/or in the emergency room treating your loved one. Keep the information collected lean and mean; for example, add cell phone and work phone numbers for the main emergency contacts, but not for all 7 children. Be sure to include your primary physician information as well as any specialty doctors, but you can probably leave off the dermatologist from a check-up three years ago.

Where to store it
While it seems like the list of vital information to include is long, this information can easily be put together and stored. You can put it in a folder, a small binder or in a plastic sheet protector. But here’s the thing – your information is only good if it is easily portable and easily found by emergency personnel. Don’t hide your folder, but instead put it in an easily accessible location like on a hook on the back of the front door, by the telephone, or on a cabinet door.

Who to tell about it
If you are not at your home 24 hours a day (and we hope that you are taking care of yourself and getting out alone!), be sure that your respite caregiver help know about the folder, as well as any visiting nurses or medical professionals. Also, in order to be sure that your first responders know about it by leaving a sticky note near the phone or attached to the emergency response system (like Lifeline).

How to take care of it
Your information is only as good as its last update, so be sure to check on the information at least quarterly. Set an alarm on your phone or make a note in your day planner to update the information as needed. Swap out old copies, or copies that are hard to read, and be sure that the emergency contact information is up-to-date as well.

With just a bit of time compiling information and making copies, you can save yourself and your loved one lots of stress during crisis situations. We think it is well worth it to be prepared before the emergency happens.