19.6 million seniors over the age of 65 visited hospital emergency rooms in 2010. Twenty-nine percent of these visits were related to fall injuries.
Seniors, including those with Alzheimer’s, may also end up in the emergency room for other reasons including:
- Medication mistakes
- Acute illness
If you’re caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, you face unique challenges keeping them safe in the loud, confusing environment of an emergency room. We have a few ideas that may help.
Alzheimer’s & Emergency Room Safety
1. Avoid the emergency room if you can.
Whenever possible, see if your loved one’s primary care physician will treat them in the office. Or consider visiting an urgent care center. These treatment centers are often more convenient, less crowded, and not as noisy as emergency rooms. They may also be open when your doctor’s office is not.
Today’s urgent care centers often have onsite x-ray machines and other diagnostic equipment. They may be able to draw blood for testing, too. The doctors on staff may even be able to administer IVs to treat dehydration.
2. Stay by your loved one’s side.
When bringing a loved one with Alzheimer’s to the emergency room, try to bring another friend or family member along with the two of you. One can converse with the staff while the other stays with the senior to ease their agitation and make sure they are comfortable.
The one who will be speaking with the doctors should introduce themselves and explain the senior’s diagnosis and situation.
3. Bring important information the ER doctors may need
Bringing your senior loved one’s medical information with you can help provide physicians with the medical history they need to safely care for your loved one.
This paperwork should include:
- Legal documents, including your loved one’s signed Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) authorization form
- Health insurance cards
- A list of prescription and non-prescription medicines your loved one is taking
- List of allergies
- Medical history and records
- Any insight or details about your loved one’s behavior that may help doctors diagnose or treat your loved one
4. Ask the staff if it’s possible to minimize noise and remove anything that could frighten your loved one.
It’s impossible to keep an emergency room quiet, but you may be able to ask staff to place privacy curtains around your loved one or to have your family member moved to a less busy area of the E.R. Any artwork on the walls, bright patterns, or disturbing shapes should be removed to reduce your loved one’s agitation.
5. Give your loved one something to do.
If your loved one is conscious and alert, especially if the immediate danger has passed and you are awaiting test results or admission into a hospital room, focus on keeping them busy.
Consider bringing a fidget blanket or tangle fidget toy to soothe your loved one.
Remember, as the caregiver of a senior with Alzheimer’s, your objective is to help ensure your loved one gets the best medical care possible while keeping them in a positive frame of mind.
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