Chest pains, stroke symptoms, injuries, and accidents are all reasons to rush to the emergency room (ER). The reasons become a bit more complicated when it comes to people living with dementia.
Those living with dementia often cannot explain what is bothering them, describe the source of pain or answer questions about how they are feeling. Did they hit their head when they fell? Where does it hurt? How are they feeling?
This uncertainty leads to ER visits for those living with dementia. The top reasons include:
- Communities have policies that often require staff to send residents living with dementia to the ER if there is a possibility that they hit their head
- Common physical ailments that land people living with dementia in the ER are UTIs, high or low blood pressure and stroke
Of course, we are now living in unprecedented times with the COVID-19 pandemic, and our new normal further complicates this issue. Loved ones can’t visit residents in care communities, and we are all cautioned to stay away from hospitals except for cases of emergencies. Unfortunately, this is not a situation that can be easily explained to a person living with dementia and it does not change the challenge of diagnosing the source of their pain.
Nonetheless, it is important to remember that going to the ER can be a scary and stressful experience for anyone, but it’s even worse for people living with dementia. Understanding the unique challenges that people living with dementia face in an ER and developing a care plan ahead of time — especially during this difficult time — can help ensure the best outcome with as little stress as possible.