Preparing for a Physical or Mental Health Emergency

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — November 5, 2019 — 4 min read
Being prepared for a physical or mental health emergency with the proper documentation and advanced care directives can be not only life-saving for the patient, but also stress-relieving for the family or friend who is the person’s caregiver.

November is National Family Caregivers Month. This year’s theme is “Caring Around the Clock,” and encourages you to take care of yourself, too. Having a plan is one way to do that.

In physical healthcare, one can prepare an advance healthcare directive, a legal document in which you specify actions that should be taken for your health if you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself.

Mental healthcare has something similar called a Psychiatric Advance Directive (PAD). Having a PAD in place in case of a mental health crisis:
  • Empowers you to plan ahead for mental health crises before they happen
  • Supports recovery, as you give instructions about your care preferences
  • Encourages dialogue about your care with your providers and other support systems
  • Offers you an opportunity to state preferences – not just for psychiatric treatment – but also for other practical life decisions, such as arrangements for taking care of children and pets, paying bills, etc.
Dellyne Samuel, an Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) Care Management Supervisor with Cardinal Innovation Healthcare’s Utilization Management Department, shares her personal experience with keeping up with her mother’s care:

I was the primary caretaker for my mother when she became ill while living in Virginia and I brought her to Charlotte, N.C., by air ambulance. It was a very emotional time for me. I was coordinating and facilitating her care with multiple physicians. 

I wanted to ensure that I was doing the best job possible because she depended on me. My professional background as an administrative manager for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities helped because I knew that documentation was crucial. 

Given that this was my mother and a lot of the news was difficult to receive, I had to make sure that I wrote down everything with every doctor and every hospital visit so I could facilitate the best care for her. 

I prepared a portable medical chart/file with several sections (a three-ring binder with dividers and tabs for labeling works well). I always kept the medical chart in a special canvas bag locked in the trunk of my car. The first section was basic demographics, such as Dual Power of Attorney documentation, the address of her primary care physician in Virginia, insurance/Medicare information, pharmacist, a medication log, hospital discharge paperwork, notes from each physician visit, marriage license (my father was deceased), birth certificate, address/telephone numbers of immediate family and very close friends who could help.

I took notes upon each visit with her medical professionals, including vitals such as weight, blood pressure, the conversation. The physicians started relying on my information because they found me to be a reliable record keeper. This saved my mother many times from even getting on the scales because she was so weak.

One time there was physician covering for her primary physician and she was admit to the hospital and he started asking me medical questions, and he saw me referencing my chart and asked me what it was. I told him it was a medical chart that I developed for my mother and he asked if he could see it. It really had all the information he needed, especially with the documents from every physician visit, hospital discharges, medications, etc.

Another example of when this helped, involves the first time my mother was admitted to the hospital in Virginia with a life-threating condition. I received the call at work from a family member and immediately called the hospital, which could not release any information due to HIPAA. They said they could speak to me if I faxed proof of Power of Attorney. I immediately went out to the car, retrieved my copy, faxed the information and then called the nurses’ station and was somewhat relieved that I could speak to someone on her condition. Otherwise, I would have been in extreme anxiety not knowing what was going on with my mother.

More information on Advance Care Planned.

Read more about Psychiatric Advance Directives (PADs) or come to an upcoming workshop. Cardinal Innovations, the Crisis Navigation Project, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Promise Resource Network will partner to offer a PAD Workshop on December 10.
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