A visit to the emergency room (ER) can cause stress for a person who is living with dementia. It is important to think about how to manage the visit before an emergency occurs. In this article we’ll provide some tips for how to better prepare ahead of a visit to the emergency room.
Preparing Ahead For Emergency Room Visits
Below is a checklist of items to better help manage the visit before an emergency occurs:
- Ask friends or family members who would be willing to accompany you or meet you in the ER. Keep a list of names and numbers by the phone. Have that person stay with the person living with dementia while you answer questions.
- Be ready to explain the symptoms and events leading up to the ER visit.
- Tell ER staff that the person is living with dementia and explain how best to talk with the person.
- Comfort the person. Stay calm and positive.
- Be patient. If your visit is not life-threatening it may take some time to be seen by a doctor.
- Be prepared to wait for lab results.
- Be aware that emergency room staff have limited training in dementia.
- Be an advocate for your person.
- If the person must stay overnight in the hospital, try to have a friend or family member stay with him or her.
Do not leave the emergency room without a plan. If you are sent home, make sure you understand all instructions for follow-up care.
Hospital Planning For Someone With Dementia
Due to the nature of the disease, it is very probable that, at some point, the person you are caring for will be hospitalized. Hospitals are not typically well-designed for patients with dementia. Preparation can make all the difference. Below is a checklist of items to consider:
- Think about and discuss hospitalization before it happens.
- Build a care team of family, friends, and/or professional caregivers to support the person during the hospital stay.
- Ask the doctor if the procedure can be done during an outpatient visit. If not, ask if tests can be done before admission to the hospital to shorten the hospital stay.
- Ask questions about anesthesia, catheters, and IVs. General anesthesia can have side effects, so see if local anesthesia is an option.
- Ask if regular medications can be continued during the hospital stay.
- Ask for a private room, with a reclining chair or bed, if insurance will cover it. It will be calmer than a shared room.
- When talking about the hospital stay, include the person living with dementia as much as possible.
- Before leaving home, tell the person with dementia that the two of you are going to spend a short time in the hospital.
- Have an advocate with your loved one 24 hours a day, especially at night.
- The hospital routine runs 24 hours a day and therefore your loved one will be checked on throughout the night and will not get a good night sleep.
- Ask for the rules for overnight visitors and if needed, have the doctor write an order that allows your loved one to have an advocate at all times.
- Hire a caregiver to cover the night shift for them; others rotate the responsibility among siblings or a few close friends.
- Remember the person living with dementia is already experiencing challenges with everyday life. The hospital can cause extra stress which can limit their abilities.
- The person living with dementia needs an advocate at all times.
Orchard at Brookhaven is a senior living community in Atlanta that is committed to helping support their families during hospital stays. Our staff is available to help families create plans for their loved one if a hospital stay is needed. Please contact us for more information or to schedule a tour.