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Practical Insights for Busy Caregivers

Tips for handling trips to the emergency department


November 14, 2016, by Pat Morden, Caregiver Exchange

If you’re caring for someone with a chronic health condition, it’s a moment you probably dread. A fall, an acute illness, chest pains, unexplained confusion – many things can trigger a visit to the emergency department.

The hospital is the right place to go in a medical emergency. But we all know that you can end up waiting many hours. That can be challenging for someone who is physically frail or has some dementia, and traumatic for caregivers. Here are a few tips on managing in the ED.

What to bring from home

  • Documentation, including:
    • the person’s health card,
    • a list of current medications,
    • the names and phone numbers of all doctors involved in his or her care,
    • the power of attorney for personal care if there is one, and
    • any other relevant medical and legal information.
(It’s a good idea to have all this information in one spot, ready to go.)
  • Glasses and hearing aids
  • A bottle of water and some snacks

At the hospital

When you first arrive, your patient will be triaged – a process of determining which patients need to be seen first and which can wait to see a doctor. Be sure to tell the triage nurse that you are the primary caregiver.

If the nurse determines that your patient can wait:

  • Stay calm
  • Focus on supporting and comforting the person you are caring for.
  • Speak up on his or her behalf.
  • Don’t leave him or her alone.
  • Let staff know if you see signs of confusion or delirium (worse-than-usual mental state).
  • Take notes.

Do you have caregiving questions and issues you’d like to see discussed in this space? Or do you have insights to share with caregivers? Please contact us at – we’d love to talk to you!