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Unexpected ER Visits - How to Prepare

No one wants to visit the Emergency Room, but it happens all the time! The ER sends us into a panic, when you feel unprepared and overwhelmed, you might not be thinking as clearly! Take a  few minutes in advance to prepare. This will help you receive a better continuity of care at your next ER visit. Here are some helpful tips for that unexpected ER visit.

Before leaving home:

  • If you have emergency alert necklaces or bracelets, be sure to wear them.

  • Always carry an up-to-date list of medications and allergies with you.

  • Remember to take a notebook / paper and a pen. It helps to keep notes while in the ER. You can record what time your vitals were taken, blood was drawn, what test results are, etc.

  • Wear a mask to protect from other illnesses or viruses going around.

  • Identify an advocate to take with you. It is always important to make sure you have someone to look out for your best interests. 

At the Emergency Room:

  • If arriving by car, enter the ER through the main entrance unless you have called ahead and made other arrangements.

  • Sign in at the registration desk. Remember that they will need your driver’s license and proof of insurance (an emergency room cannot deny treatment).

  • The next step is for a nurse to call you back to assess you.

  • When you go back, the triage nurse will take your vital signs, discuss your symptoms / chief complaints, assess you and gather your history. Then they assign you a waiting status based on your emergency level, from 1 – 5 (level 1 is the most serious).

  • If there are no beds available and your condition is less serious, you may be asked to return to the waiting room.

  • Once you have been assigned a room, have a nurse check your vital signs again, especially if you waited a long time since their initial check.

  • You will be placed in a room and asked to change into a gown. All staff should wash their hands and wear gloves.

  • Ask the nurse what tests are going to be ordered. Make sure you have a call light (a way to call the nurse) within reach.

  • It is usual for the nurse to start an IV and draw labs before you see the doctor. Some ERs use symptom protocols that allow a nurse to order tests off a standard list for your primary complaint. This speeds up the process and gives the doctor the most information available to help evaluate and treat you.

  • Waiting on the doctor. It is okay to go out periodically (or send someone out) to talk with a nurse about your test results or to ask how much longer your wait will be. You came to the ER to feel better, don’t be afraid to ask for medication or interventions to keep you comfortable while you wait.

  • After test results are received, the doctor should come in to assess you and discuss those results. At that time, they can order more tests, give a diagnosis and/or discuss admission or discharge.

Reminders before leaving the Emergency Room Questions you should ask:

  • What is my diagnosis?

  • Am I going to be admitted? If admitted, how long might my hospital stay be?

  • What should I expect?

  • When should I begin to feel better?

  • If I am discharged, when should I follow up and with whom?

  • Can I have a report of the tests ordered and their results?

  • Are there any new medications or changes to my current medications?

  • Will you be sending a report to my primary care physician?

Preparing in advance for an Emergency Room visit helps you feel less anxious and more prepared for the unexpected. These tips will help you plan accordingly for your next visit, but if this still feels overwhelming, Care Management may be the right answer.

Care Management is a holistic, client-centered approach of guiding older adults through the confusion and anxiety of the aging process. Our professional Care Managers are Registered Nurses or licensed Social Workers who are Aging Life Care Professionals®. An Aging Life Care Professional® is a health and human services specialist who is a guide, advocate, and resource for their clients and their families.

Our Care Managers complete assessments and develop personalized care plans for our clients, helping prepare them for the future. Our Care Managers are available by phone 24/7 to ensure our clients have the support they need and best possible care. We help navigate emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and rehabilitation stays.

Your Care Manager would be there for you during your ER visits, completing the steps above and asking the right questions, all while communicating with you and your loved ones. If you are interested in learning more about how Care Management can offer you and your family peace of mind, fill out our contact form or call today!

Written by Casey Rausin, RN, CCM

Aging Life Care™ Professional.


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