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. Try to make your loved one comfortable and at ease should you have to go to the ER.
Bring with you a list of medications your loved one is currently taking and any assistive devices, such as hearing aids, dentures, walking aids and eyeglasses. You should also make sure you have the appropriate health insurance information, contact information on doctors and family members and, if appropriate, a copy of your power of attorney. If your loved one has advance directives or the "Five Wishes" documents bring those too.
Pack a snack as there may be a long wait. An iPhone or iPod loaded with your loved one's favorite music and headphones could help ease anxiety and filter out environmental noises. Refrain from bringing items of value, such as jewelry or a wallet, and avoid bringing extra people or small children.
Wait times in an emergency room can last up to an hour or more, unless your loved one has a life-threatening condition. Give step-by-step explanations of what's going on and be honest with your loved one about where you are and what is happening. However, if this upsets them or makes them agitated, stop trying to explain things and focus on keeping them calm and comfortable by holding hands, offering a snack or walking and/or sitting in a more quiet area of the waiting room.
Make sure the hospital staff knows why you are there and that your loved one has Alzheimer's disease or dementia. Be aware that typical emergency room staff members have limited training in Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, so try to help them better understand your loved one by encouraging them to see them as an individual.
Offer suggestions that you find helpful in communicating with your loved one. Ask doctors and medical personnel to limit questions, which could cause undue stress and anxiety. Instead, ask the doctor to speak with you privately.
Ask the staff to avoid using any physical restraints or medications to control the anxious behaviors, unless it is absolutely necessary. As your loved one's caregiver, you are a better judge of his or her condition and personality, so let the staff know of any medical problems such as fever, medication side effects, infections or changes in mental status. And never leave your loved one alone in the emergency room or assigned room for evaluation.
Unless your loved one is admitted to the hospital, make sure you leave the emergency room with a care plan and follow-up instructions for their care.