Having to go to the emergency room is stressful for most people, but people with Alzheimer’s sometimes don’t have the ability to cope with the stress. On top of being sick or injured, they may not understand what is going on around them. They may be frightened by the sights and sounds. Even a planned visit to the hospital can be difficult for both a person with Alzheimer’s and for their caregivers. Having a plan in place before a trip to the hospital can ease the situation for everyone involved.
Working with Hospital Staff
It’s important to keep in mind that not everyone who works at a hospital will have the same knowledge of and experience with dementia. As a family caregiver, you are your family member’s advocate. Be patient with those you come in contact with, but don’t be afraid to speak up and let them know the type of approach that works best. You may find it helpful to create a personal information sheet for your loved one that you can give to the staff.
A personal information sheet should include:
-The name the person likes to be addressed by. For example, some older adults find it rude when someone they do not know calls them by their first name, so they might prefer to be called “Mrs. Smith.” Or, if the person had a professional title, they may feel more respected when it is used, such as “Dr. Jones” or “Rev. Johnson.”
-The normal routine. Even though being in the hospital necessitates a change in routine, knowing what the person’s day normally looks like can provide insight into what is normal for the person. If possible, the staff may try to stick to as much of the routine as possible, too.
-How the person acts. Include some information about personal habits, what the older adult likes and dislikes, and how to recognize signs of discomfort. Also, information about what triggers problem behaviors can help the staff to avoid them.
Coping with Emergency Visits
An emergency visit is usually more stressful than a planned visit, so it’s especially important to think about how caregivers will handle the situation if it arises.
Here are some ideas for handling a trip to the ER:
-Have someone come with you or meet you at the hospital. That person can stay with the dementia patient while you answer the doctor’s questions.
-Immediately inform the ER staff that the person has Alzheimer’s disease.
-Try to remain calm and comfort the older adult. Keep in mind that they may pick up on how you are feeling, so keeping your own feelings in check is essential.
-Be patient. Remember that lab results can take time and there are many other patients in the hospital, so it’s likely you will have to wait. It may be a good idea to bring something along that your family member enjoys and that will distract them from the wait.
Family caregivers for people with Alzheimer’s disease face a lot of challenges. Certainly, visits to the hospital are one of them. Knowing ahead of time what you will do once you get there and how you can best advocate for your loved one will make the situation easier.
If you or a loved-one are considering hiring senior care in Alexandria, VA, please contact the caring staff at Quality Health Services LLC. Call today 703-910-7081.