Senior Patient Hospitalization, #5: The ER Worked Fast

If you like this post, please read my Senior Parent Hospitalization posts: Report #1: This Hospital Gets ItReport #2: Peace and QuietReport #3: Four Ways to Reduce Stress for Patient FamiliesReport #4: Observations from My Dad, Report #5: The Emergency Room Worked Fast, and Report #6: Learning About Cardiac Procedures and Surgeries.

It was long past midnight when my husband and I drove toward the Shenandoah Mountains and Harrisonburg, Virginia. My father was in the emergency department at Rockingham Memorial Hospital (RMH), due to complications from congestive heart failure, and we were on our way to help. Concerned, I took the time to fill my book bag with all of the official papers an adult daughter may need if decisions are required when a parent is hospitalized.

As we drove, the two of us talked about what might be in store for our family over the next 12 hours. We expected to arrive at the hospital, go to the emergency room, and find my dad on a gurney — uncomfortable, irritated, and who knows what else. We knew from emergency trips with my husband’s mother and father that the long waits, loud noises, and ER confusion (perceived through elder eyes) led to extreme discomfort and disorientation, no matter what time of day the visits occurred. In fact, I wrote a post for this blog describing just how long it takes for the confusion, once it sets in, to go away.

We were pleasantly surprised — thrilled actually — to arrive at RMH and find my father already in his hospital room with my mother on the bolster bed under the window. Were they slightly stressed? Of course. He had just been taken to the hospital in an ambulance. Were they irritated, confused, and disoriented? Absolutely not.

We don’t know exactly what happened during those several hours in the emergency department of the hospital, but Dad’s visit must have been fast, efficient, and fairly free from anxiety. His experience was totally different and a lot better than the ER visits of my mother and father-in-law.

As a result the unsatisfactory trips made by my in-laws to the emergency room, my husband and I have kept ourselves informed about the movement that promotes senior-friendly emergency departments in hospitals around the country. I especially admire the work of geriatrician Dr. Bill Thomas, who is a philosophical and medical guide for the senior-friendly ER movement (see his video below). Read the geriatric ED services at the St. Joseph Health Services in New Jersey. Listen to an NPR feature from a February 2009 story, An Emergency Room  Built Specially for Seniors. You can also read a post I wrote several months ago, Senior Friendly Emergency Rooms.

I do not know exactly what Rockingham Memorial Hospital does ensure that seniors get treated in an emergency environment that makes them comfortable and less susceptible to confusion. What I do know, however, is that the system at RMH worked for my dad. He reached his room in the hospital, perhaps with a bit of chagrin for having a mild heart attack and complications of congestive heart failure, but with nothing more complicated than that. My husband and I put away the file of papers and start helping him get well.

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