Unexpected visits to the Emergency Department or even a planned hospitalization can be stressful and trying for people with Parkinson’s and their care partners. Many times the staff is ill-informed on how to deal with Parkinson’s patients and does not understand the intricracies of medication timing. Create your won plan now and be prepared for your next visit.
Whenever possible, schedule any surgeries or procedures at a hospital where your neurologist has privelages. This will enable him or her to oversee your medication regiment and make reccomendations regarding your care, including when to restart meds after a surgery. If your procedure is at a different hospital, inform your surgeon about your needs regarding medications and ask him to consult with your neurologist.
The Emergency Department can be a unique challenge as you will probably find yourself there unexpectedly. Prepare before hand by having a Vial of Life on your refrigerator door; this form lists all medications, along with other medical and emergency information, and can easily be taken with you to the hospital. If you need to call paramedics, make sure you have the Vial of Life sticker on your door jam – the paramedics look for this and will know to go to the refrigerator to grab your vial. (Stickers and complete kits are available through your local Area Agency on Aging.) It is also a good idea to keep the current list of Medications to be Avoided with PD to take with you along with your up-to-date medication list.
Once you are in the Emergency Department, you or your care partner will need to act as your own advocate for those who are unfamiliar with Parkinson’s. If the visit is Parkinson’s-related, inform the doctors of any recent or unexpected changes in symptoms and any changes in medications. Regardless of the reason for the visit, state on all medical forms and reiterate to staff the importance of medication timing and what will happen if doses are missed (inability to move, prominent tremors, etc.) Include on forms information about medical implant devices, such as a Deep Brain Stimulator, which could prevent the use of an MRI.
Preparation is the key to any visit to the hospital, unexpected or planned. Be prepared to explain the ins and outs of Parkinson’s to unfamiliar staff and be firm in your requirements to have Parkinson’s medications distributed on a regular basis. Be prepared to have some flexibility, but be firm (without being rude) about the needs you have.
Visit our website for more information on Parkinson’s in the ER and Hospital.