New emergency kit for seniors ensures critical health information ready for trip to hospital

Seniors occupy an ever-increasing proportion of acute-care hospital beds, and with current demographic trends, the situation will increase even more in the future. But if families can help their senior loved one prepare in advance for a trip to the hospital, and also ease their transition from hospital back home, the chances of their aging parent returning to hospital are less.

A service provider, Home Instead Senior Care has developed an innovative tool called the Caring For Your Parents: Senior Emergency KitSM, which helps families assemble medical and other health-related information. The idea is that in the case of an emergency, the kit can help the adult child enter the emergency room armed with critical health-related information: the names of their senior parent’s doctors, as well as medication and dosage details, allergies, health insurance, and other important items.

“We know what can happen in an emergency situation when a senior has a bad fall or needs to be rushed to the hospital,” says Bruce Mahony, owner of in Toronto. “Very often their son or daughter isn’t aware of the medications they take, or what allergies they have, so when the person gets to emergency nobody knows. This Senior Emergency Kit has all this at hand and indicates what meds the person takes on a daily basis.”

The Senior Emergency Kit was developed as part of the Answering the Call public education program that came about as a result of a research study conducted by The Boomer Project for Home Instead Senior Care. The study surveyed 290 Canadian adults aged 45 to 65 who said they are likely to assume a caregiver role for their parents in the next ten years. The research found that most adult children are unprepared for an emergency concerning their aging parents and don’t have the information they need about their loved one’s health.

Here are some key findings from that study:
•    51 per cent couldn’t name any medications their parents take daily
•    52 per cent who say their parents have allergies to medications couldn’t name these allergies
•    76 per cent couldn’t name their parents’ blood type.

“The results of the survey were no surprise to us since we often are called to assist when families are in crisis,” Mahony explains. “We’ve seen the turmoil that such a situation creates and we’ve also witnessed how much smoother it can go when families are prepared.”

Much is at stake for local seniors and their family caregivers. According to Health Canada’s Report on Canada’s Aging Population, four out of five seniors living in their own home suffer from chronic health conditions including arthritis, rheumatism, high blood pressure, allergies, back problems, heart conditions, cataracts and diabetes. For many of these conditions, seniors take medications. And according to Statistics Canada, seniors represent 13.9 per cent of the Canadian population, but that proportion is expected to rise. Statistics Canada’s A Portrait of Seniors in Canada says seniors will make up 17 per cent of the population in 2026 and 27 per cent in 2056. This means that even more seniors will need care in the future, and if present trends continue, they will occupy more and more hospital beds.

“An information kit like this improves the care of older adults when they are in hospital along with the hospital staff, who want to provide them with the best possible care,” says Dr. Samir Sinha, Director of Geriatrics at Mount Sinai and the University Health Network Hospitals in Toronto. “When providers have this information, it leads to better decision-making because you know who to communicate with amongst the patient’s family members, friends and care providers. This kit empowers patients and allows family members to be better advocates for their loved ones.”

Dr. Sinha says most hospitals today are not geared to taking care of the because they were designed as part of a health care system during the post-war period when people didn’t live as long or with as many chronic health conditions as they do now. “Essentially, the patients have changed, but the system hasn’t,” he explains. “As a result, the special needs of frail older adults can easily get lost in the processes of a hospital.”

He added that while 60 per cent of in-patient bed days in Ontario hospitals today are occupied by a subset of all older adults who tend to be the biggest users of acute-care services, these tend to be people suffering from multiple health conditions. The Senior Emergency Kit might be most effective in such situations, and it can be kept by the telephone or near the fridge in an older person’s kitchen.

For more information on the Caring For Your Parents: Senior Emergency Kit, go to: or call Home Instead Senior Care at 1-866-996-1087.