No one wants to land in the emergency room of a hospital, but it happens frequently, especially to seniors, so it is imperative that seniors be ready for an unexpected trip to the emergency room. 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 is prudent to prepare in advance for a trip to your local emergency room.
When you find that you must go the hospital, chances are you will be in a rush and not thinking clearly. It is called “emergency room” for a reason! It is likely you’ll be stressed and panicked if you are dealing with a new health crisis. Your mind will be on a million different things.
A great step in getting prepared for an unexpected trip to the emergency room is to pack a ready-to-go bag that includes:
- A cozy blanket
- A warm sweater
- A change of comfortable clothing including sweatpants
- Skin lotion and lip balm
- A list of current medications, including frequency and dosage
- Bottled water and healthy snacks (but check with a nurse before giving your loved on anything to eat or drink)
- Depending on the current health conditions of your loved one, you may also need to pack incontinence 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 will 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 favorite stuffed animal, a photo album to look at, books or magazines, or any other activities you know they like to help pass the time.
As a caregiver, you will need your own “go bag” for an unexpected trip to the emergency room for your loved one. Your to “go bag” should include:
- 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 for healthcare
- A book, knitting, or other activities you like to do such as crosswords or sudoku
- Toiletries including a toothbrush and toothpaste
- Mints or cough drops for the dry hospital air
- Glasses or contact lenses
Finding yourself on an unexpected trip to the emergency room 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 are there can make the time your spend in an emergency room better for both you and your loved one. The trick is preparing before the event so you can be calm while packing. So pack your bags, label them with your name and address and tuck them away in a closet where hopefully they’ll stay!
If you have questions about caring for an elderly loved one, please call Burzynski Elder Law at 239-434-8557. You can also visit our website.