Alzheimer's Tips for the Hospital Waiting Room

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Mom’s lung disease is progressing faster than her Alzheimer’s disease. This situation means that she is prone to having extremely difficulty breathing and her physical system’s defenses are struggling to maintain her health. The possibility increasingly exists that the slightest bump or minor strain of flu may turn into a major health scare.

    Fortunately, the nurses at Mom’s retirement center have caught most issues before they became full-fledge crises, but we still have spent a great deal of time in the hospital emergency room waiting room. The least amount of time we’ve spent in the emergency room is about five hours, but we’ve also spent over eight hours from admission to the time when Mom was released. And with many hospitals’ ER rooms being over-taxed by the number of patients they see on a daily basis, the amount of time that Mom and I will spend in the emergency room waiting area probably will continue to increase.
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    Because of Mom’s Alzheimer’s Disease, sitting in the ER waiting room becomes a task of constantly answering why we are there, how long we may be there, and chatting on minor topics that entertain her. I can’t leave her alone for an extended period of time because she’ll get disoriented, so other than a fast restroom break, I pretty much know that I am sitting next to my mom for the long haul. Because these outings are infrequent and unpredictable, I’ve learned to make plans ahead of time to be prepared. Ideas that seem to work for me include:

    - Keep reading material or other time-fillers close by to take with you at a moment’s notice. My mom can still read at this point, so I try to grab a People magazine or some other picture-laden magazine so she can scan the pages. Having a magazine handy can keep her preoccupied for part of the time we’re in a waiting room..

    - Keep cash or change on hand for purchasing snacks. I really have to remind myself to do this since I often just use my ATM card instead of cash. But Mom often gets hungry while we’re in the waiting room, so having money enables me to go around the corner and buy a soft drink or crackers for her.

    - Because of her lung disease, I try to find seats that are relatively far away from others in the emergency room so she isn’t exposed to other illnesses. But I also try to make sure to seat her where she can watch little kids, whom she adores. However, I also have heard Mom make some strange and sometimes cruel comments about people whom she sees (which she never did prior to being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease). So by finding seats in a somewhat isolated area, I am hoping to ensure that any person who becomes the object of Mom’s people-watching foray never hears any of Mom’s derogatory comments.

    - Every now and then, I have professional business that takes me out of town for several days straight. If I’m going to be in a city that is quite a distance (like Dallas, which is three hours away), I ask my friends if they would volunteer for an “on call” list just in case there is an emergency room visit. Thankfully, my great friends quickly chime in and I end up with a list of 5-6 people who are willing to be contacted on a moment’s notice to help Mom until I can get back in town. I provide a list of these names and phone numbers to the nurse to have on file. At this point, no one has been called, but having this back-up plan eases my mind to know that a friend’s assistance is just a phone call away.

  • Spending time in the hospital emergency room has become part of the aging process in my Mom’s case. I try to make sure that the time we spend in the ER is as stress-free as it can be, and that Mom remains safe, calm, and engaged as we assist her in remaining well.
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Published On: June 28, 2006