By Lisa Bayer, J.D., CCM
Have you ever been a patient in an emergency room? Did you go by yourself or did you have someone with you? Were you seen right away or forced to sit in the waiting room for hours? Did you have your own “room” or was your bed parked in a crowded hallway? Were you scared? Anxious? Frustrated? Confused? Uncomfortable?
Having accompanied family members and clients to the emergency room on multiple occasions I can attest first hand that they have felt all of the emotions and feelings described above at one time or another. Fortunately for them they all had me by their side to advocate on their behalf.
But, what about the patients that have no one to ask questions and speak up for them? I remember one visit to the ER when my husband had a kidney stone and there, in a bed next to the medical station, was an older woman who was brought in by a local assisted living facility. She repeatedly called out for help but no one responded. She said she needed to use the bathroom but no one helped her. She kept asking where she was and begged to go home but the staff ignored her–except every so often to tell her to “sit still” (evidently she was also a fall risk). And, while the staff did nothing to help her they had no problem speaking about her as if she wasn’t there. It was clear that she had some level of dementia but she still had enough presence of mind to know that she was in a strange place and needed help.
I know I was out of turn but I couldn’t help but speak up for her. I asked her nurse to please have someone take her to the rest room. I also asked that they call her family so that someone could come be with her. The nurse said that she had no family nearby and that someone from the facility dropped her off and left her there all by herself. That they would pick her up at some point–whenever the driver had the chance. And, that other than trying to address her medical issues, she was not their responsibility. I was furious with the assisted living for being so irresponsible and uncaring (please don’t ask me which one because I will not say).
I’ll never know what happened to her because, after several hours, my husband passed his kidney stone and we were able to go home. Yet, the poor lady was still in the same place as when we arrived. She was still calling for help and asking to go home. No one had come by to explain what was going on and comfort her.
Bottom line. Whether you are 24 or 104 you should always try to have someone with you to advocate if you have the unfortunate experience of having to go to an emergency room. Someone to ask questions and to press for explanations. And, when you are ready to go home (or be admitted), to make sure that you receive the attention and care that you need and that you deserve.