The Caregiver Space - Surviving the ER

Being a caregiver in the ER is usually pretty awful. It feels like I’m always in the way. The hospital staff seem to either ignore me or the patient – they never acknowledge both of us at once. I have to walk the fine line between advocating for my loved one and making myself a nuisance. Sometimes it feels like the staff are providing care based on how they view me – I’ve had the best ER experience when I’ve been calm and professionally dressed.

Usually you don’t know ahead of time, but sometimes you know when a trip to the ER is more likely, like when a chronic condition is flaring up or when beginning a new treatment. It helps to be prepared.

I keep a bag packed with a few items that are handy for trips to the ER as well as weekends away. It’s got:

a clean t-shirt,
a toothbrush and toothpaste,
a notebook and pen,
a book, and
granola bars and other snacks.

My hospital has a psychiatric emergency room. The patient goes in alone, and the caregivers have the wait outside or even go home. Holding time is usually about 30 hours in there, before they discharge you or find a bed there or elsewhere for you.

My parents and I are pretty comfortable with the situation there, so they know after I’m brought inside they can answer a few questions, leave a phone number, and go home. No point waiting around for 30+ hours if they can’t do anything. The staff is usually very good about keeping them informed about what’s going on.

I just found out the other day that our local hospital now has a behavioral unit in the ER devoted to psychiatric cases. I’m not sure what that says about our small city, that we have excellent mental health care or that mental illness crises are such a problem that we need special services.

Our state’s mental health care is pretty mediocre at best, and not great at all for adolescents. I HATED going to the ER SO much! There was one stint my daughter did that was 5 days waiting for a bed at an acute care facility. She basically had to lie there, she couldn’t even draw or anything because she was on suicide watch. They often fought me over me giving her her scripts, because they didn’t know if the medications were contributing to her condition and yet going off w/o teiring down is not cool. Psych patient’s needs do not get prioritized in the ER (which is relativity understandable) but does make a caregiver advocate important. Many ERs here don’t have any psych staff on the units-so sometimes it’s an almost 24 hour wait just to get an eval. The first time she went in and didn’t have a diagnoses yet she couldn’t even get a “sitter” for suicide watch, my ex husband and I had to sit around in shifts, 24-7 for almost three days. What a nightmare!

There SHOULD be special services! We have a problem because these needs are never met in a satisfactory way. There are specialists for all kinds of diseases-why not this one?
Waiting for 30 hours in the ER is not acceptable. I had to wait at times for 5 hours, probably because my son and I both made a lot of noise and they wanted to get us out of there. This hospital has a psych unit upstairs.