There is nothing more stressful than when you have an unexpected trip to the emergency room. This when vital information can make a difference between life and death. Planning in advance for that unexpected moment can be a lifesaver. It will also allow the family caregiver to avoid undue stress and anxiety.
Diane Carbo: This is Diane Carbo and I’m with caregiver relief. And today we’re back with Alycia Martel. She is a caregiver code. And end of life specialist and and the Medicare specialist and Alycia and I spoke earlier in the week and we decided that due to an unexpected emergency visit to the hospital with her dad, that that would be a great topic for this week.
Alycia, I’m so glad to have you today. I want you to tell us your story.
Alycia Martel: My story. Okay. I’ve been with dad now for seven years. Before that for seven years, I was taking care of various other family members with different illnesses which kind of set me on the path to where I’m going now, but that’s for another day. I do have a bachelor’s in elementary ed and behavioral sciences, but We had a scare earlier this week. Dad’s had a cloth my whole life. We talked it out too, working at Pratt and Whitney. Pratt Whitney is they make pipe. They make ’em engine parts for airplanes and for NASA. Yeah. And. As dusty, as chemically, as working with oil and, but anyway, his long scans are always clear. There’s nothing physically wrong with him, but he had a coughing fit really bad one morning.
And it was Monday of last week, Tuesday of last week. I’m not sure. My day is a little off and. What do I’m good under pressure. So I started making a list in my head. First of all, I need to get this man on the moon. No, the ambulance wouldn’t get here. How am I going to do that?
This is an 84 year old, exceptionally French stubborn man.
So how this is going to work. So he’s coughing hard time breathing. I’m like, okay. I have to coax into the living room, just to get them to sit down and get near an open window, gets fresh air on them. One I’m calling. So I managed to do that. I’m not sure how now. Really not sure how I think I told him I’d get him a cup of coffee.
I wasn’t going to give him any liquid, not breathing well. . And I’m talking to that 911 the both of them just like talking to you now, very calm because I don’t want him getting up, getting of trucks at mine.
Diane Carbo: That’s a good point
Alycia Martel: Because he’s a very, happy-go-lucky upbeat jokey kind of guy. And the very second you show any sign of upset. He gives us that. And I told them one, one operator. I said, please, no, sorry. Please those arms. They started on it. They send police officers out first. And then the lady came in the house. I gave her the rug down. By this point, dad had calmed down a little bit.
He was able to talk, but I still wanted to get him checked out anyway, because he had been gasping. He just. Having met major coffins and their EMT showed up with the sirens blaring who’s of course. Oh, man, on the end, the officer went outside and I could hear her saying to them that you weren’t supposed to have any Simons, but I didn’t pay her much attention.
I turned on dad cause he was like, is that for me? That’s for me, I’m not going with him. I’m not.
They were very good with, he was like, oh, what’s going on? He’s I don’t know. Why don’t you tell me? Yeah. Why don’t you ask her? She’s the one that called you the EMT has kicked in and out of walked out the door on its own now because the COVID rules, they’re not allowed to take a passenger with them. So I had to hang behind , I don’t drive.
Okay. I was able to take a moment to get my stuff together because not only am I his caregiver, I’m also his conservator.
Diane Carbo: Can you explain what that means to the news people in caregiving?
Alycia Martel: Yup. That means if it’s the same thing as being a power of attorney, that means I’m in charge of both his medical and his financial affairs. So I have all of his decisions for him. I see that the bills get paid on the house. I see that his 401k is managed in his bank account. I’ve made over his healthcare has doctor’s appointments. Pretty much it I’ll be in charge of his will. I’m in charge of [00:05:00] his. Directive as far as whether he wants to be resuscitated or not.
Diane Carbo: So when you got your paperwork together and you went to the hospital
Alycia Martel: this is a story of when, of what not to do.
Diane Carbo: Okay. And I’ll address later what you should do.
Alycia Martel: Good. Do see normally a folder. And in that folder, I have a copy of the paper with the seal from the probate court that says I’m a have conservator, I have copies of his social security card and his birth certificate. I have a copy of his. Military discharge, just because it’s a very long time to get. And you never know when that can come in handy. It’s just something that his previous conservator kept in his emergency folder. So I thought it was a good idea. I have a photo copy of his insurance card and I also carry his his physical insurance card in my wallet. Okay. These are all good things to have in your emergency folder. And you should have that either in your car. If you have a car, you shouldn’t have it by the front door. Keep it in something that will, grab your eye something. That’ll keep your attention.
Now I was ill-prepared for this. I have mine in a Manila folder, which does not grab my attention. I almost always have it ready to go. This is the first time I left the house for anything, and I could not find it in the time that I had to get it, probably cause I only had seven minutes before my ride got in here. I don’t know. I couldn’t find it. Thankfully they had all his information in the hospital system, so that was my savior, but normally that’s what I would put.
That’s what I have in my emergency conservator folder. And I also have a copy of his medical wishes that he signed when he was on sound mind. And then advanced directive and advanced directive is what it’s called. Yeah. That states that he does not necessitate it, no extreme measures like life support or feeding too, nothing like that. He just wants to go when he it’s his.
Diane Carbo: Because you go to this hospital and you’ve been there before in an emergency situation, they have your dad’s electronic medical records there. But one of the things that I would tell a new caregiver to do is you should have a history, a medical history, a copy in every folder of a medical history. And that should include a current list of all medications and any over-the-counter medications or supplements. A person takes as well as all the allergies or any medication that [00:08:00] your family member has taken that may have had an adverse reaction to it. You also, you may have another list of emergency contacts and some in case like something like you, a person who you’re not diabetic, but let’s say you, you get there. You’re so stressed out. You have low blood sugar, you pass out oh, yeah.
It happens. I can tell you. And as a nurse, I, it happens. You want to list of other emergency contacts that they can contact in case. And I’m just going to go over. You did, you made, you said about the copies of the healthcare insurance and all the legal documents. That’s really important. I also tell people to make a bag up with a change of clothing for your loved one and toiletries . The other thing I wanted to address was with somebody like dementia, sometimes it’s just nice to throw in that bag, a family photo or something that makes give them comfort. It makes them [00:09:00] see something from know your if it’s a picture of them, Dog or whatever. Just in case of emergency things that you can do for a person with dementia. But go ahead. I’m sorry. I wanted to, I want to hear about what happened with your dad as CEO or how did it go?
Alycia Martel: Oh, it went fine. His lungs, his chest x-ray came back later. His blood work. Normal as always everything was fine. They treated him for allergies. They gave me some cough medicine and told me to give him Claritin and he’s been okay. So Alex is you developed allergies at 84?
Diane Carbo: It does happen. .
Alycia Martel: They said he probably cost himself into a panic attack.
Diane Carbo: Oh. Okay. That’s good to know too, because you know what? People don’t understand that when you can’t breathe. You do panic. One of the things I wanted to acknowledge is that you decided that you needed an ambulance. And one of the things I wanted to tell people is you could give her, some of them are so hesitant because their family member doesn’t want to go to the ER or. There are times when you just have to call an ambulance. There are times when you can drive them to the hospital when you think they need to be seen in an emergency situation. But there are times when you just have to call an ambulance and you shouldn’t delay doing that. Some of the things that I would suggest that condition would be like the shortness of breath. Your dad was getting himself into a dizzy because he couldn’t breathe, which could have caused other things. If a person feels painting, or they safe, or they feel suddenly dizzy that could be a sign of a trans ischemic attack. Or if they have changes in their vision or difficulty speaking, or if they’re having some bleeding problems that, that because they’re on [00:11:00] a blood thinner, those are times where you really should call an ambulance.
Again, confusion sudden severe pain, severe nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Or an unusual, severe abdominal pain. And again, I’m going to touch on this because this is a topic that has it’s close to home is thoughts of suicide or homicide. There are behavioral changes that occur in a person with dementia, and sometimes there may not be suicidal, can be homicidal. And those are times when you shouldn’t hesitate to call an ambulance or nine one one. So your dad developed allergies at the age of 84. . I’m glad it wasn’t something serious, but I did want to touch base with you did have the advanced directive in place. Could you go more into information on what the advanced directive is and how you decide you and your dad made decisions on it?
Alycia Martel: We put that in place after my mom has to weigh about, he saw my mom was able to make decisions and being, for what she wanted, he was coherent. But my dad. Put into place his wishes and your advanced directive states. Exactly what she wants done to your body. After, as you’re passing, after you pass. States if you want a pastor to come in and give you your money, right? If you want to be resuscitated, if you want to be kept on life support, how long you want to be kept on life support dates. Oh, you want to make these decisions for you? Who a medical representative is. Which would be a backup person, in case a conservator is not available, who a trusted family or friend who can help make these decisions and falling, and, has a copy of the advanced directive. Now it is important that whoever’s involved in the. Even though, not even the underline, any stage of life, really, to me, you should have something in place because accidents happen. Your spouse should have a copy. Your doctor’s office should have a copy. A lawyer should have a copy of your advanced directive. Certainly any medical reps that you have should have a copy. And any preferred hospital that you go to, you should bring the copy with you. If you have a plan medical procedure or, your loved one, any a hospital that your loved one goes to, you should also have a copy of that in your emergency folder as well.
Diane Carbo: That’s a good point. One of the things that I learned over my years as a manager is that advanced directives are not always honored. And the reason why is even though you have put things in writing. they won’t honor it if the person that you’ve been designated, if you haven’t had that conversation with them. It’s really important that people understand that speaking about end of life issues. especially with the person that you’ve designated to be your power of attorney if they don’t feel that you once these wishes. I don’t agree with your wishes. They can be ignored.
Alycia Martel: And that’s really sad. A lot of it comes from fear. People don’t want to talk about death don’t, because they’re uncomfortable with it themselves. And scary to think about their loved one dying and , who wants to talk about it with, their spouse or their aging parents or their siblings or whoever it may be. Nobody really wants to talk about it. And as something that needs to be talked about, and especially, I think as we saw this past year too, it’s important. Everybody needs to have. And it’s both of the iffy conversations we have to have. And if it’s a war, we’re all gonna go through it. And we’ve all had somebody who’s passed away and it’s it’s really, how would, you need to be able to pass away. With dignity. And if we want to really give that to our loved ones, then we need to be able to listen to them. And it doesn’t have to be a very long drawn out conversation. It doesn’t have to be emotionally evoking. There doesn’t have to be a lot of tears and drama associated with it, but it just has to be said.
Diane Carbo: Exactly and people don’t understand that an unexpected trip to the emergency room. You could go from being a person who would your family member is perfectly fine. And all of a sudden they’re at death’s doorstep in a matter of seconds and due to a stroke due to a fall, a head injury. Your life changes dramatically and being prepared for that unexpected trip to the emergency room, encompasses many things. having advanced planning in place, alleviates a lot of undue stress and anxiety for the [00:17:00] caregiver. And that’s important because they need to be calm. I need to be collected and they need to be able to make logical non-emotional decisions at a very Stressful time . I’d like to end, as I always do with remember caregivers, you are the most important part of it. So they’re giving you the equation without you. It all falls apart. So practice self care every day. Be gentle with yourself because you weren’t worth it. Thanks Alycia..