How to Be Prepared for a Trip to the ER

How to Be Prepared for a Trip to the ER
Teresa Nguyen, 5/30/2018
Any time your loved one is forced to go to the emergency room, it can feel like a crisis to your whole family. Unfortunately, these crises are all too common. Elderly Americans make over 20 million trips to the ER every year for issues related to an illness, a fall, or something sudden like a stroke. Although you might not be able to keep your loved one out of the ER, you can make sure you're prepared to handle their visit so they can be home as quickly and safely as possible.

Compiling Their Medical and Insurance Information

It's important that medical professionals have access to all the information necessary so they can make an informed decision regarding your loved one (think if a patient advocate could help you). The ER is a hectic place, so ensuring that all of the medical information is accurate and complete will make it easier on both yourself and the doctor to diagnose and treat your loved one.

Here are 9 items you should definitely put in your ER kit.

1. Medications your loved one is currently taking

Know what the medications are used for, what times they are administered, and the prescription dose. This is important as the medications may have side effects that could give hints as to what is wrong.

2. List of allergies

Especially medicine that they are allergic to. You wouldn't want a nurse or doctor to administer a drug that could be potentially fatal. Be sure to also include minor allergies, the triggers, reactions, and how it is usually treated.

3. Medical conditions, symptoms, and how they're being treated

Keeping track of everything that your loved one is going through will make it a lot easier for the doctor or nurse to figure out if something is wrong and how to fix it. Even something that seems trivial or unimportant could be a symptom of something bigger.

4. Names and numbers of relevant doctors and specialists

This is particularly important if your loved one is seeing multiple doctors for different reasons. Make sure you know the role of each doctor and what they are currently doing to treat your loved one. This will make it easier for the ER nurse or doctor to contact the correct doctor if needed.

Pro tip: Write items 1-4 on index cards and attach to a key ring. You could also have it in a binder or on an electronic document. This way all of the information is in one place and can be easily accessed.

5. Insurance cards

You don't want to accidentally pay for something that your insurance covers.

6. Recent test/lab results

If it is relevant to your loved one's current condition, then bring a copy. These could include blood tests, MRIs, x-rays, or PET scans.

7. Photo identification

This includes a driver's license, passport, or even a library card. This ensures that there are no mistakes in term of identity and medical record.

8. Legal documents

This includes a living will, power of attorney or health care proxy, and Do Not Resuscitate (DNR). These documents are important during these situations, so that you will know what your loved one would want in times of crisis.

9. Emergency contact information

Keep close family and friends in the know about what's happening by including the names and numbers of everyone important. If necessary, appoint a point of contact to keep everyone else up-to-date.

Comfort Items for You and Your Loved One

Even in an overnight situation, it is important to pack some items for your loved one and yourself so that you do not have to go back home to get them. These will make your trip to the ER more comfortable and less stressful.

Items to pack for your loved one include:
  • Toiletry kit (toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, hand cream, etc.)
  • Something to put them at ease (favorite blanket, stuffed animal, etc.)
  • Glasses, hearing aid, dentures, or other necessary items
  • Headphones, books, or some type of entertainment
Items to pack for yourself include:
  • Toiletry kit (toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, hand cream, etc.)
  • Blanket and/or pillow
  • Warm sweater or cardigan as hospitals can be cold
  • Pen & paper to take notes
  • Snacks or cash to use in vending machines
  • Phone charger
  • Headphones, books, or some type of entertainment
While this list contains necessary items, it is not comprehensive, nor does it apply to everybody. Pack what you know you need and leave off items that may not be essential to you. Keep all items in a place where you can just grab and go - such as by the front door or in your car. You'll make it easier it on yourself and your loved one by being prepared before something even happens.
Teresa Nguyen

Teresa Nguyen

Teresa Nguyen is a Marketing Associate at She graduated from George Mason University with a B.S. in Marketing in 2017 and has implemented and assisted with several marketing initiatives while there.