Caring for a loved one with dementia can be challenging, and it becomes even more difficult when a visit to the emergency room is necessary. People with dementia often struggle in unfamiliar surroundings, and the chaos of the emergency room can make them feel confused and disoriented. Moreover, hospital staff and healthcare workers are not typically specialized in Alzheimer’s or dementia care . In this article, we will discuss some tips to help you navigate the emergency room with a loved one with dementia.
Understanding the Challenges
Visiting the emergency room can be stressful for anyone, but for people with dementia, it can be particularly traumatic. They may become more confused due to unfamiliar surroundings and the chaos of the emergency room. The inability to process logically what is going on can create an additional burden and sometimes even result in delirium .
Tips for Navigating the Emergency Room
1. Be Prepared
It’s essential to be prepared before you arrive at the emergency room. Make sure you have all the necessary documents, such as the patient’s medical history, medication list, and insurance information. Bring any necessary supplies, such as hearing aids or glasses, to help the patient feel more comfortable. Also, consider packing a bag with essential items, such as water, snacks, and a change of clothes.
2. Communicate with the Healthcare Team
It’s crucial to communicate with the healthcare team as soon as possible about your loved one’s dementia diagnosis. Let them know about any behavioral or communication challenges the patient may have. Communicating the diagnosis can help them provide the best possible care and avoid unnecessary tests or procedures.
3. Consider a Geriatrician or Geriatric Specialist
Consider seeking out a geriatrician or geriatric specialist to provide specialized care for your loved one with dementia. These healthcare providers have experience in managing the care of older adults and are trained in addressing the unique challenges that people with dementia face.
4. Advocate for Your Loved One
As a caregiver, it’s essential to advocate for your loved one with dementia. If you feel that the healthcare team is not meeting your loved one’s needs or is not taking their dementia into account, speak up.
5. Provide Comfort and Reassurance
A visit to the emergency room can be scary for anyone, but it can be especially frightening for people with dementia. Providing comfort and reassurance can help ease their anxiety. Hold their hand, speak in a calm and soothing voice, and provide familiar items, such as a blanket or a favorite stuffed animal.
Navigating the emergency room with a loved one with dementia can be a daunting task. However, being prepared, communicating with the healthcare team, seeking out specialized care, advocating for your loved one, and providing comfort and reassurance can help make the experience less traumatic for both you and your loved one.
- How can I prepare my loved one with dementia for an emergency room visit?
Before the visit, explain to your loved one what will happen and what they can expect. Bring any familiar items that can provide comfort and reassurance.
- What should I do if the healthcare team is not taking my loved one’s dementia into account?
Speak up and advocate for your loved one. Let the healthcare team know about your loved one’s diagnosis and any behavioral or communication challenges they may have.