Going to hospital with a loved one
There is that horrible phone call, from the police or paramedics that lets you know that something terrible has happened. It’s almost always at an inconvenient time and they want you to drop what you’re doing and head off to the hospital or come to where they are, if you are near enough.
If the matter is a life and death emergency, then you will be advised to meet them there and they will be blue lighted to the hospital or possibly even by helicopter. If not the ambulance will make its way to the hospital and you can meet them there.
Depending on where you are in relation to your relative and the hospital, if you arrive before them, then the emergency department administrators will know they are on the way and will be able to give you an approximate time of arrival.
There is a four hour target of arriving at A&E and being discharged from there, either home or into the hospital, possible to a medical assessment ward (MAU). This four hours does not start to run, until the paramedics have handed them over and there can be a queue for that, which can take up to an hour or even more. Therefore the expectation that this will be done within 4 hours of the ambulance pulling up at the hospital doesn’t necessarily take this extra time into account. So when you get to the hospital and pass by a place that sells food and drink, buy some, you could be waiting a long time and might need sustenance. Make sure that you have a book or your phone is fully charged, as the waiting may be boring and you might need something to occupy you.
There are periods of activity and a lot of waiting as the staff undertake their investigations, they undertake a lot of their work with you nearby, but not there for reasons of access and dignity.
The area can be very busy, depending on what time of day and what day of the week, late on a Saturday night is not a great time for an elderly relative to have a fall! The staff are busy and are trying hard to do their jobs effectively in a challenging environment and many retain great empathy skills even when under immense pressure.
If you have a power of attorney for health and welfare and your relatives has issues with their mental capacity, then it is worthwhile ensuring that you have a copy of it available, if possible. If you’re loved one lacks capacity to make a decision, then you make it for them, so you will need to let the staff know that you have it, to ensure that any decisions that need to be made are done so, having discussed them with you and asked for your final decision.
If there is no power of attorney for health and welfare, then they should still discuss the situation with you and ask what your loved one would want, however the final decision as to what to do is the healthcare professionals and they are required to make a decision in that person’s best interests.
When someone you love is poorly, it is always a distressing time, watching them ill and/or in pain. You are there and you are trying your best, that’s all you can do, so be kind to yourself about how stressful this situation is.
My key suggestions therefore are:
Be prepared for a long wait.
Get some food and something to drink during that wait.
Bring your health and welfare lasting power of attorney.
Be patient and respectful to the staff.
Be kind to yourself with how upset you might feel.