Everyone dreads it. A trip to the ER involving your elderly parent. For starters, it’s stressful. And, this past weekend I was reminded exactly how emotionally, physically and mentally draining it can be.
At 90 years old, dad does pretty well. But, with anyone who is older, things can change quickly. And for dad it did, necessitating us to head with him to the ER. Not the sort of “trip” you want to be taking, but inevitably with an elderly parent it happens. Mom came with us, and my brother met us there.
Crowded, noisy and not well-suited for the elderly, we suffered through a 4 hour wait before being seen. Once seen, it was another hour of stops and starts before a surgical procedure was performed and relief obtained. We survived pretty darned well though, considering how helpless we felt at first. Making the best of the situation boiled down to 5 things really.
The 5 “Must Haves”
These are my essentials in caring for them and caring for you, when an elderly parent is taken to the ER.1. An Advocate. Navigating the ER and healthcare system without someone advocating for you at any age is risky. They need you to speak up for them, to protect their rights, to watch out for their safety, and to maintain their dignity and respect. If language is a barrier, insist on interpretation support.
2. Prepared Ahead of Time. Have these things at the ready, at all times. For the documents listed, you can decide whether it’s a folder you use to organize them, a 3-ring binder or pictures of these stored on your smart phone. Whatever works best for you.
– Key Health Information: List of current medications. Completed medical history form (allergies, medical conditions, surgeries, preferences/Living Will, Power of Attorney, demographics).
– Key Contact Information: Doctors/specialists, insurance card/contact information, emergency contacts, their photo ID.
– Overnight Bag: Anticipate admission. Personal items, including hearing aid, glasses, toiletries ,etc. Leave it in the car.
– Comfort Items: For you! Reading material, snacks, cell phone charger, sweater/sweatshirt for cold rooms
3. Calm & Patience. Their mood and state of mind can be altered by how you are reacting. If there is an issue, be their advocate and be firm. Things will not happen at the speed you desire, be patient, but do be assertive in inquiring and seeking what’s needed for your parent.
4. Support. For you! Whether in person (other family members) or by phone, you need to have someone you can talk to and be supported.
5. Faith. Prayer is a powerful tool in healing, strength, and maintaining calm. The weight of the world cannot fully fall on your shoulders. Having a higher power to lean on is essential.
A trip to the ER is nerve-wracking. Focusing on these 5 “must haves” will help to make the process easier so that you can focus on what matters most….your elderly parent.