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Remember why Emergency Rooms are there
Timing is everything when it comes to the Emergency Room. Daytime will be much busier. Weekends will be awful because Doctor’s offices are closed. If your emergency is unlikely to require a hospital admission, go to an urgent care during times when the Doctor’s office is closed. With time, you will become an expert on this. Of course, you can’t factor in accidents and critical patients that have happened that are filling the ER in the back that you can’t see.
Trauma patients, as well as critical patients, will get in ahead of you in the ER unless you have a heart attack or stroke. (Timelines are involved so if they suspect those are happening, they will start IV’s and get lab work quickly.) It is important to know this when you head to a certain place for your felt emergency. It is also wise to go to the same hospital or group of hospitals for your emergencies. They have your records. (Often, the records are available at a sister hospital that may have a less busy ER. Whether your specialist is available is another story.) That is where your doctors are. It will save you a lot of time and delays. Over time, you will sort out pros and cons for the needs your loved one has. Feel free to ask questions. This will also affect the coverage you have for your medical insurance.
If you can remember that ER’s are designed for life and death emergencies, broken bones, stitches, problems that require hospital admissions, not the kinds of things people see their doctors for routinely such as sore throats, etc., it will help you know when to use the ER and when to go somewhere else! Those kinds of things are best done at doctor’s offices or urgent care offices. With the elderly or those with other health issues, you often have potential life-threatening issues to deal with if you let things go until the next day. Your doctor can let you know which things are serious for your patient.
You can call your doctor on call (sometimes, it will be your doctor) to clarify which category you fall into at the time. It won’t take long to know. You will save yourself many hours in the ER if you understand what the purpose of all these places is.
What if I fall apart or don’t know how to handle the emergency?
Remembering that you will be able to manage what happens is going to be helpful for you. The more you tell yourself that you don’t know what to do or this emergency is more than you can handle, the more rattled you will become. When you realize you are in the middle of an emergency, it won’t hurt to pause. Take a couple of slow deep breaths to calm yourself. Yes, even nurses have to do it to collect ourselves. Then do the next thing. If you know you will need an ambulance, call 9-1-1. Knowing they are on their way will help you. Often, they can guide you while you are on the phone re what to do next. If your loved one is safe, go unlock the front door so the paramedics can get in.
- Make sure your loved one is safe. If breathing is difficult, add a pillow or two. If he is passing out, put him flat on the bed or floor.
- If he is unconscious, be sure he is in a safe place on the floor or on a bed (don’t lift him to get him onto the bed.) If needed cover him to keep him warm. Be sure he is safe from falling. There is a difference between being unconscious and still and unconscious and flailing around of course. The second makes it much wiser to have him on the floor.
- Watch to be sure he is breathing. Occasionally monitor pulse.
- If he is awake, reassure him that help is coming.
If you aren’t sure if they are sick enough for the Emergency Room, call your doctor to see what you should do. He will guide you re whether to go to the ER or not. Try to be as concise as you can be with the doctor but tell him why you are concerned. You want the doctor to see what you see. Give her a picture of what you are seeing/hearing/feeling
- Is he having trouble breathing?
- What is his breathing like?
- Is his skin warm, cold/clammy, sweaty, hot?
- Is he having any pain?
- Where is his pain?
- Is he confused?
- Does he know his name? where he is? the date/month/year? the president of the US?
- How long has he been this way?
- Is his color different than usual?
- How? Is he pale, yellow, gray, blue, flushed?
- Is he weak on one side? (If you aren’t sure, grab his hands in yours and ask him to squeeze.)
- A very important sign to check is his mouth. Have him smile. Is it symmetrical?
- Have him stick out his tongue. Does it go off to one side?
- If his mouth or speech is affected, don’t allow him to take anything by mouth. His swallowing ability may be affected and he could choke.
If you have symptoms of a stroke, chest pain or possible heart attack? GO TO THE ER! Time is of the essence. Chills in an older person? Go to the ER.
Do not be anxious about anything,
but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving
let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Be strong and courageous.
Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed,
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.