Navigating the ER as a dementia caregiver can be challenging

Emergency room entrance sign with ambulance

Steve Shepard

I was moved this week when I watched the video of a Maryland woman who was distraught because she was told by hospital staff that she would have to leave her mother-in-law, who was in severe pain and has Alzheimer’s, alone in the emergency waiting room due to COVID-19 restrictions.

As a former dementia caregiver, I can empathize with the helplessness and the frustration that Laura Kramer felt. It’s ridiculous that Kramer had to take her mother-in-law to another county in order to receive treatment and be at her side as her family caregiver. You can watch her emotional plea.

My own father had multiple trips to the emergency room in the last year of his life while he was a resident at a memory center. Their procedure was also to leave the patient at the ER once admitted because they didn’t have the staff to wait with the resident. I often thought about how confused and scared my father must have been, alone in a chaotic emergency room atmosphere.

The good news is that Kramer’s experience forced the hospital to revisit its guidelines and admit that they had made a mistake. Of course COVID-19 restrictions are necessary in a healthcare setting, but no-exception policies could have deadly consequences when it comes to caring for those with cognitive issues. Kramer’s actions should be a role model for other caregivers who find themselves in similar situations.


Filed under Awareness & Activism

4 responses to “Navigating the ER as a dementia caregiver can be challenging

  1. This is maddening. They aren’t letting people gather for funerals for their loved ones either, yet anyone entwined in politics can have thousands attend theirs, and it’s broadcast on TV. I would freak out if they won’t let me go in the hospital with my mom if she needs it. They will have to call the cops on me, because I will not leave her side. My mom is sickly, and I’ve feared throughout this thing that this situation could easily happen. It’s a shame what Laura Kramer had to go through.

  2. The fear of litigation along with the growing expectations of a zero risk acceptance in our culture have lead us down into some dark places. I remember not being allowed in to the emergency room with a friend for whom I was acting as a translator. Since I was not a family member I had to stay in the lobby while they struggled to communicate till one of the nurses got mad and broke the rules to let me in! I am sure the rules were meant to watch out for people’s safety but sometimes they disconnect us from common sense and compassion. Thanks for sharing.

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