Caregiver Question | 10/05/23

I don’t know the first thing about making an emergency plan. Can you help?

DEAR CARALLEL: My husband has had a host of medical issues in recent years that have made me his caregiver. Physically he’s doing okay but his attitude is very different than it used to be.

He’s still sweet most of the time but I never know when he’s going to turn on me. His moods are so unpredictable. I get sad about it and I do my best to deal with those feelings but my main concern is how I never know what to expect.

Not to mention, the decisions he makes some days leave me scratching my head and afraid that he could get hurt. Or accidentally hurt someone else. He can be so impulsive!

I was at my support group the other day and as I was sharing this, another member told me that I should have an emergency plan in place. She’s kind of a know-it-all but I think she’s probably right in this case.

We talked a little bit afterwards but I still don’t know the first thing about creating an emergency plan. Can you help? –Pia in Fairview, KS

DEAR PIA: First of all, good for you for attending a support group. They can be a helpful source of emotional support–and we all need regular doses of that while we’re caring for a loved one.

I also understand how distressing it is when you feel like you don’t know what may cause the one you care for to be triggered or what to do when they are. I am glad you reached out!

If you haven’t spoken with your husband’s doctor about your concerns, I’d recommend that you do it as soon as possible. They should be aware of what’s happening and can help you think about steps you should take to continue managing the situation.

And speaking of steps to take, the other support group attendee was on target with her mention of having an emergency plan in place for these behaviors. We of course hope we never need them but they’re invaluable to have in place–and it should also give you some welcomed peace of mind.

All of that said, here are some tips on how to think about an emergency plan and ideas for what should go into it. 

Review Previous Challenging Situations:
Think back on some of your husband’s difficult behaviors. See if you can remember specific triggers, patterns, or warning signs. Don’t forget that medical conditions and medications could be the cause of a change in behavior.

Involve Healthcare Professionals
Consult with your husband’s healthcare team. You could start with his primary care doctor but may want to also include psychiatrists and behavioral health specialists to gather their insights and recommendations.

Identify Emergency Triggers See if you can determine specific situations or events that are likely to trigger his challenging behaviors. These could include changes in routine, sensory overload, or anything specific that stresses him.

Form a Crisis Team Assemble a team of caregivers, family members, and/or friends who can respond to emergencies. If you already have people helping you, you have a head start on this one. 

Ensure the team members understand your husband’s needs, the emergency plan, and their roles. 

Create a Crisis Response Plan
Outline a step-by-step guide for responding in these situations. Include strategies for de-escalation and communication and determine when it’s appropriate to involve emergency services or seek medical assistance.

Communication Plan
Develop a clear and concise method for communicating with your husband during crises. Establish a communication protocol that includes emergency contact numbers, who should be called when, by whom etc. 

Safe Spaces
Identify safe spaces within the home where your husband can go to calm down. Ensure the spaces are free of potential hazards.

Emergency Contacts
Compile a list of emergency contacts, including healthcare providers, crisis hotlines, and local authorities such as the fire department, police etc. Keep this list easily accessible to everyone on your team.

Documentation
In a way that’s easy for you, document incidents and responses after they happen. Make sure to record what works for future use.

Medications
If medications are prescribed to help manage these behaviors, ensure that they’re stored securely out of his reach, and administered as prescribed.

Review Regularly and Update
Periodically review and update the emergency plan as your husband’s needs or circumstances change.

Seek Professional Help
If challenging behaviors persist or escalate, again consult with healthcare professionals for further assessment and intervention.

You likely have bits and pieces of this already in place, Pia. And you can do the rest one step at a time.

You’ve got this! 

–Jennifer, Carallel Care Advocate


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