Emergency Department Visits and Acute Care Stays

An Emergency Department visit can be a long, tedious wait. Whether you arrive in your vehicle or by ambulance, it is likely to be stressful and if your loved one is admitted to hospital, they may be placed in a medical care or acute care ward depending upon their diagnosis.

Here are a few things you can do to organize yourself and to be more comfortable for a short or longer stay at hospital.

Keep a Vial of Life in your refrigerator and one in the glove box of your car so first responders can access life-saving information quickly.  The template for information in your Vial can be printed from here.  When you have been prescribed a new medication or if the frequency or dosage has changed, ask the pharmacist for a printout of current meds to include in your Vial.

Have a small pre-packed suitcase or backpack for your loved one ready to ‘grab-and-go’ in case of emergency.  Include a change of clothes, a book or magazine, earplugs, sunglasses (lighting can be harsh), a bottle of water, coins for vending machines and a small jar of coconut oil for dry skin and lips.  Include an old pair of glasses if possible.  Remember to bring hearing aids. Have a bag packed for you too.  It is important that you are comfortable and prepared for the unexpected.

All medication should always be taken to the Emergency Department.  Meds should be kept in the same area so they can be swept into a bag easily and quickly. The exception would be meds that must be kept in the refrigerator.  If you are not able to locate all medication, take your Vial of Life from the refrigerator if it is up-to-date.

Bring your loved one’s Personal Directive.  Even if they are conscious and able to answer questions when you arrive at hospital, their condition may change and their Substitute Decision Maker will need to step in.

If your loved one has difficulty thinking, understanding or speaking for themselves, please explain this when you register.  For example, “My mother has dementia and answers ‘yes’ to everything.  I can provide most of the information you need.”

If your loved one has a cognitive or sensory impairment that will make a long wait in a noisy waiting room difficult for them, or those around you, explain that also.  For example, “My brother is on the Autism Spectrum and his anxiety is triggered by bright lights and noise.  Could we wait in a quiet room by ourselves please?”

If there is a possibility that your loved one may need medical attention and will not be able to speak for themselves, perhaps an identification bracelet will help healthcare workers contact you.  One example of an identification bracelet can be found on the Home Care and Other Services page of the CNS website; click on your region, and then search under Personal Safety/Assisted Living Products/Home Medical Equipment.

Having the right information and knowing what to expect is essential when your loved one is being released from hospital.  For more information, this article on Discharge Planning may help you prepare for that conversation. Treated and Discharged: How to Avoid Repeat Hospital Visits may also be of help.

If discharge planning hasn’t been discussed with you at the hospital yet, and if Home Care is needed but hasn’t been set up, ask for a meeting with a Social Worker or Discharge Planner to get the ball rolling.

Transition of Care From Hospital to Home will help you get organized for the discharge of your loved one from hospital.  If it is necessary to create a ground floor bedroom for convalescing, When the Living Room Becomes the Bedroom may be helpful.  Also, consult our Where to Begin guide in considering what tasks you must do and what can be asked of a helper.