How to Prepare for Hospital Emergencies

Dimensions Newsletter

How to Prepare for Hospital Emergencies

No one ever wants to visit a hospital emergency department, but on occasion the need for emergent medical attention is needed. Here are a few tips to make the visit less confusing for your loved one with dementia and less stressful for yourself:

  • Remember to bring your health card and any important health documentation you may need, such as prescription information
  • Ask if a friend or family member is permitted to stay with your loved one while you answer hospital staff questions
  • Consider having your loved one transported by ambulance, as it is the safest and most reliable way to get to the hospital
  • Tell the emergency department staff that your loved one has dementia, and explain how best to communicate with them
  • Explain your family member’s baseline behaviours and cognitive abilities, and what has changed from their norm
  • Recognize that lab results take time
  • If your loved one is being discharged, speak with hospital staff about a care plan to follow at home. Make sure you understand all instructions and speak up if you foresee a challenge in providing the required care, particularly if it is related to a drastic change in health status
  • Reassure your loved one and help keep them calm

Part of your preparations will include packing ahead of time to reduce stress should an emergency situation arise.  Consider packing the following in an emergency bag:

  • A list of current medications, conditions and allergies
  • The name of your family doctor or specialist and their contact information
  • A personal information sheet that includes helpful information, such as your family member’s preferred name, language, contact information of key family members, and need for glasses, dentures or hearing aids
  • Snacks and bottles of water
  • Favourite comfort items, music player with earphones, books or magazines
  • A pad of paper and pen to write down information and directions given to you by hospital staff

Some hospitals employ a specialized nurse who can offer added support to you and your loved one while in the emergency department. They are called Geriatric Emergency Medicine (GEM) nurses with specialized training in geriatric medicine and related medical conditions and offer helpful information on the various community support services available. Be sure to ask your emergency department if there is a GEM available should you find yourself in need of their services.

Submitted by Recreation Staff at McCormick Dementia Services.

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