“The environment of a hospital emergency room with crowds of people, alarms and noises can be particularly overwhelming and overstimulating for people with Alzheimer's disease.”
Start long before you must go to the ER, by creating a list of your medications and have a few copies with you.
Bring the medication list and any assistive devices, including hearing aids, dentures, an extra pair of glasses and any walking aids, like a walker or a cane.
Also, have a list of contact information for all healthcare providers and family members. If you have a power of attorney, bring that as well. If the individual has an advance directive or any other documents, like a do not resuscitate (DNR), bring those just in case. Make sure to have all health insurance information.
Expect a wait, so bring snacks. A portable music player with the person’s favorite soothing music and headphones may provide some comfort. Magazines or books that are used during quiet times at home may be useful. Don’t bring anything of value, like jewelry or a wallet. And don’t bring a crowd. Small children, unless there is no one who can care for them, or other family members, are best left at home.
Unless the individual is having a life-threatening emergency, you will likely have to wait, and you may be waiting a while. Provide simple step-by-step explanations of what is taking place and be honest with them about why they are in the hospital and what is happening.
Focus on keeping them calm and comfortable. Offer a snack and if possible, find a quiet space in the waiting room.
Make sure that the hospital staff is aware you are there with a person who has Alzheimer’s or dementia. They may not have training in caring for dementia patients, so be prepared to advocate for your parent or loved one. Offer suggestions in communicating with the person and ask doctors and medical personnel to limit their questions, which may increase stress and anxiety. Speak with the doctor privately, if possible.
Request that the staff avoid using any physical restraints or medications to control the person’s behavior, unless absolutely necessary. Let the staff know about any fever, medication side effects or changes in mental status. Never leave the person alone in the ER or the evaluation room.
Reference: The Advocate (Jan. 20, 2019) “Alzheimer’s Q&A: What should I know before taking someone with Alzheimer’s to the emergency room”