Caregiver Tips: Part 2 - Emergency Room Trips 

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Emergency room trips are almost inevitable if a patient is being treated for a long-term medical condition. Here are some tips from our personal experiences:

  • Keep your automobile filled with enough gas to get to medical appointments or to the hospital in an emergency. Keep it maintained with regular oil changes and tire rotations.
  • Keep luggage prepacked with basics for frequent trips to the ER. Assume the patient will be admitted for at least two to three days—or longer.
  • Keep a checklist of things to take to the emergency room.
    • cell phone
    • cell phone charger
    • eye glasses
    • patient’s ID and insurance card
    • medications (for both the patient and caregiver)
    • patient’s latest medical records
    • contact information of doctors, family, clergy
    • current list of medications for the patient
    • vomit bucket for car trip
    • wet wipes
    • paper towels
    • plastic bags for trash in case the patient gets sick
    • toiletries for both the patient and caregiver 
      • toothbrush
      • toothpaste
      • deodorant
      • makeup & makeup remover
      • comb or brush
      • soft toilet tissue (You’ll appreciate this during long hospital stays.)
    • pajamas and changes of clothing for the caregiver
    • extra underwear and pajama pants for the patient
    • snacks
    • bottled water for the ER waiting room
    • cash/credit card for food
    • laptop, power cord, mouse, and extra batteries for mouse
    • reading material
    • paper and pen to take notes on treatment and diagnosis
    • ear plugs (if you’re a light sleeper)
    • sweater or jacket (hospitals are cold)
  • If you go to an ER that doesn’t have access to the patient’s medical records, take a summary report of the treatment history, the most recent doctors’ and radiologists’ reports, and a CD of the most recent scans.
  • Take a list of the prescription medications and over-the-counter supplements the patient takes, along with the dosage and frequency taken. Know the last time the drugs were taken. Better yet, take the patient’s medication bottles with you to the ER, especially if you have a specialty drug. The patient won’t be allowed to use his/her own medication after being admitted, but you don’t know how long you will wait in the waiting room. [Note: My husband was allowed to consume his own clinical trial chemo pills because the hospital didn’t stock that drug in the pharmacy, but he had to get special permission from the pharmacy to take his own medication.] The admitting personnel likes to see exactly what is prescribed on the bottles because most people don’t carry a complete medication list with them that includes the dosage.
  • In the hospital, write down all medications given to the patient (ask the nurse what they are and to spell them for you), the time given, the dosage prescribed, and what they’re for.
  • Write down when blood is drawn and if it is for something special, such as to grow cultures. (We had an instance where the ER nurse didn’t enter the blood draw procedure into the computer before my husband was admitted to the hospital. The admitting nurse wanted to order the same blood draw. When I showed her the exact time my husband had the blood drawn, she contacted the ER nurse and verified it had been done already.)
  • Write down every procedure or therapy the patient receives (biopsy, oxygen, respiratory therapy, physical therapy, ultrasound, x-rays, scans, etc.) This becomes helpful to verify that you and the insurance company don't get overcharged.
  • Sanitize items in the ER and hospital rooms: remote control on the bed, TV remote, food tray, light switches, phone, keyboard, etc. You can use a paper towel and the hand sanitizer hanging by the door. Avoid touching elevator buttons with your fingertip (use your knuckle) and wash your hands after touching a staircase railing. You need to become a germophobe when cancer is involved to protect the patient who has a low immune system.
  • Leave a spare house key with a trusted neighbor or family member. Have them check on your house periodically during lengthy stays away from home. Make sure your home doesn’t appear vacant to potential thieves. Either put your mail and newspaper delivery on hold or ask a neighbor or family member to get it for you daily. Put your interior and exterior lights on timers. Have someone take your trash dumpsters to the curb on trash day, whether there’s trash in them or not.
  • Make sure you have someone available at all times to take care of your children and/or pet(s) on a moment’s notice. Always have a backup plan.
  • Be vigilant. You are your own best advocate. Even the best professionals can make mistakes.