Preparing for Unexpected Trips to the Emergency Room

No one wants to land in the emergency room of a hospital, but it happens frequently, especially to seniors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 139 million emergency department visits annually in the United States. If you care for an older family member, it’s prudent to prepare in advance for a trip to your local emergency department.

When you find that you must go to the hospital, chances are you’ll be in a rush and not thinking straight. It’s called emergency room for a reason after all. It’s highly likely that you’ll be stressed and panicked if you’re dealing with a health crisis. Your mind will be on a million different things so a great step in getting prepared is to pack a ready-to-go bag for your loved one that includes:

  • A cozy blanket
  • A warm sweater
  • Slippers
  • A change of comfortable clothing including sweatpants
  • Tissues
  • Skin lotion and lip balm
  • A list of current medications
  • Bottled water and healthy snacks* (check with a nurse before you give your loved one anything to eat or drink)

Depending on the current health conditions of your loved one, you may also need to pack incontinent products including adult pull-ups and wet wipes, diabetic supplies, hearing aid batteries or anything else they may need to manage their conditions over a 24-hour period. Don’t assume the hospital will have what you need as they may not, or it may take time for them to get it for you.

If your family member has dementia, you’ll also want to have comfort items on hand that will help ease any confusion or anxiety they experience while in the hospital. Have an iPod and headphones with a personalized playlist ready to go, a favourite stuffed animal, a photo album to look at, books or magazines, or other activities to help pass the time.

You’ll also want to prepare your own ready-to-go bag that includes:

  • A change of clothing
  • A charger for your phone or tablet
  • A notebook to write down questions or instructions
  • Money for vending machines
  • Family doctor contact information
  • A copy of your loved one’s advance directive
  • A book, knitting or other activities you like to do
  • Toiletries including a toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Mints or cough drops for the dry hospital air
  • Glasses or contact lenses

Finding yourself unexpectedly in the ER can mean a long and uncomfortable wait with a scratchy blanket, and nothing to eat or drink with boredom looming large. But taking fifteen minutes to think about what you may need while you’re there can make the time you spend in an emergency room better for both you and your loved one.  Pack your bags, label them with your name and address and tuck them away in a closet where hopefully they’ll stay!

Questions about caring for an elderly loved one? Takacs McGinnis is here to help. Just give us a call at 615.824.2571.

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