Seniors have emergencies every day that send them to an emergency room (ER), sometimes two or more times in a week. Adult boomer children can watch helplessly as their parents bounce between their home and the ER. Enduring ER protocols can be a new definition of suffering for a senior with dementia. Are the ER bounces really necessary? Can an assisted living community minimize the ER visits?
Emergency rooms save lives everyday and I am grateful for them and their procedures. But seniors with dementia can have reoccurring symptoms that cause 911 personnel to recommend transporting them to an ER. It’s hard for emergency staff to handle the time consuming questioning of a dementia patient, who can’t remember what was said 10 seconds ago. So a senior with dementia can repeatedly ask in vain for a glass of water, a cup of coffee or some food…and unfortunately the answer from ER staff is usually no. In fairness, if someone needed surgery that very day, he or she can’t have anything to eat or drink beforehand. But a senior with dementia does not understand why they are being denied.
My mom was sent to the ER for chest pains two days in a row and endured 8 hours of dementia confusion the first day and 3 hours the second day, before I was able to rescue her and take her back to her assisted living apartment (this happened even with the POLST in place). My mom’s POLST (physician’s orders for life-sustaining treatment) state that because of her age and dementia that no extraordinary measures should be taken such as resuscitation or a surgery.
The first day in the ER, my poor mom asked 65 times, “Where is my purse? Where are my glasses?” They had not been sent with her to the ER and when I told her they were at her home, she could not remember where home was located.
After I arrived at the ER on the second day, my mom said, “I have been in a living hell with no water and no one will talk to me.” Then she thought she was in her childhood state of California instead of Washington State. It was a complete nightmare for her and I became very protective.
I decided to sign paperwork at her assisted living community stating that if my mom had chest pains again, she was not to go the ER. Her assisted living community agreed. The doctor documented that her chest pain was not caused by her heart and gave a prescription for pain medication. The next morning my mom had the same chest pains and the assisted living nurse saved her the anguish of going to the ER again. The nurse gave her the prescribed pain medication, the pain subsided and she ate her breakfast with a smile.
If boomer children have parents with reoccurring symptoms that send them to an ER, an assisted living or memory care community may be a good solution for your stress. Check it out…
Diane Twohy Masson is the author of Senior Housing Marketing – How to Increase Your Occupancy and Stay Full.