Avoid the ER: Care Alternatives During COVID-19

Right now, diligent families like yours are doing everything they can to keep their loved ones with dementia safe and healthy at home until the threat of COVID-19 passes. Unfortunately, accidents and illnesses can happen to even the most diligent among us. For generations, we took our after-hours injuries and illnesses to the emergency room if we couldn’t get in to see our regular doctors. But today, your loved one has more convenient, less expensive care options – and even better reasons to steer clear of the ER if in a coronavirus hotspot – if their condition isn’t life-threatening or doesn’t require surgery. “In some cases, of course, such as when an older person who is on blood thinners falls and suffers bad bruising or cuts, you should seek treatment at an emergency room,” advises Danielle Buck, Director of Community Relations at YourLife™ of Stuart, a Memory Care community in Stuart, Florida. “But for truly non-life-threatening issues, there are alternative professional services that can provide excellent, immediate care if their doctor is unavailable.” In this post, we’ll review the supplementary benefits of urgent care centers and retail health clinics, five things to do before making an appointment, and when to go to the ER. Emergency Room Alternatives: Urgent Care Centers and Retail Health Clinics Urgent care centers and retail health clinics both offer same-day appointments, are licensed and accredited, and are staffed by doctors, nurses or physician’s assistants. This means your loved one will still receive prompt, quality care – but without the ER worries, hassles or costs. (Bonus: Using ER alternatives for non-life-threatening conditions also helps ease the burden on overwhelmed emergency healthcare workers and vital resources.) Urgent Care Centers: Urgent care centers can treat virtually any medical condition that requires immediate attention but isn’t life-threatening. Providers such as these are staffed by doctors, nurses and physician’s assistants, typically have evening and weekends hours, and many are open 24 hours and on holidays. Urgent care centers are appropriate for issues like • Sprains • X-rays • Animal or spider bites • Bee stings • Stitches Retail Health Clinics: These clinics treat routine and minor conditions within pharmacies, supermarkets, and big box stores like Walmart and Target. They are affordable options, featuring transparent, upfront pricing (usually listed on their signage or website) at a mere fraction of the cost of ER visits and generally less than urgent care centers. Retail health clinics are staffed by nurse practitioners or physician’s assistants, are typically open on evenings, weekends and some holidays. They treat: • Minor illnesses, like coughs, sore throats, sinus pain and colds • Pinkeye, rashes, scrapes and cuts • Flu shots and other vaccinations • General wellness physicals, including lab work and screenings • Suture or staple removal • Chronic condition management (if symptoms are severe, go to the emergency room) NOTE: A routine or minor issue for a healthy senior may not be routine or minor for a senior in poor general health, taking certain medications, or suffering from certain chronic conditions. If your loved one’s symptoms are severe, take them to the emergency room immediately. If you’re unsure of the nature of your loved one’s injury or illness or can’t determine if it’s severe enough to risk taking them in public, call their primary care physician (PCP). If they are unavailable, call your local urgent care center or your insurance company’s telehealth service. The medical professionals there can talk you through the symptoms and point you in the right direction. If possible, use the service’s video app. 5 Things to Do BEFORE Immediate Care Is Needed 1. Consult your loved one’s PCP. This one bears repeating. Ask the PCP if anything in your loved one’s medical history might make an urgent care center or retail health clinic an inappropriate alternative to the ER. 2. Select your preferred urgent care and retail health clinic providers (and have backups). Find providers close to your loved one’s home. Do your online research, ask friends and your loved one’s PCP for recommendations – they may know providers personally or be able to make a recommendation based on a facility’s services or reputation in the local medical community. 3. Call your loved one’s insurance carrier or check the company’s website to make sure the care providers you chose will accept your loved one’s insurance. Most major plans should. 4. Post the immediate care providers’ information on your refrigerator and make copies for family members. Include hours of operation, phone numbers, addresses and any other important details. Make a note to call ahead; walk-ins are not accepted in most places during the COVID-19 pandemic. 5. Keep an updated copy of your loved one’s medical history and list of medications handy to take to appointments. This information will be essential to the care provider who is meeting your loved one for the first time, especially if prescriptions will be needed. Make it ahead of time and have one less thing to worry about when trying to get the best care for your loved one. Make copies for family members. When You SHOULD Go to the ER Anyone who feels their life is in danger, or will be if they don’t get medical attention, should call 911 or have someone drive them to the emergency room immediately. • Sudden or unexplained loss of consciousness • Signs of a heart attack, such as sudden/severe chest pain or pressure • Signs of a stroke, such as numbness of the face, arm or leg on one side of the body; difficulty talking; sudden loss of vision • Severe shortness of breath • High fever with a stiff neck, mental confusion and/or difficulty breathing • Coughing up or vomiting blood • Cut or wound that won't stop bleeding • Possible broken bones • Poisoning • Stab wounds • Sudden, severe abdominal pain • Head trauma • Partial or total amputation of a limb • Suicidal or homicidal feelings If You Suspect Your Loved One Has COVID-19: • Call their primary care physician or your state’s department of health for advice before scheduling an appointment (Florida’s DOH hotline is 866-779-6121). • Use the CDC’s self-assessment tool to help you determine whether your loved one should be tested and other next steps. • Do NOT walk into a care provider’s office without an appointment. • Call the provider for an appointment, tell them you suspect COVID-19 and describe the symptoms. • DO go to the Emergency Room if your loved one has symptoms, including but not limited to: – Difficulty breathing – Persistent pain or pressure in the chest – Unexplained confusion or inability to arouse – Bluish lips or face To learn how YourLife™ of Stuart is caring for residents through these uncertain times, call our dementia care experts at 772-212-2448. Designed for You. Defined by You. YourLife™ of Stuart was created with one purpose – to provide the most exceptional Memory Care and uplifting lifestyle for our residents. As Memory Care specialists, we focus all our energy, attention and resources on creating a community that caters to each resident’s personal needs, respects their choices and honors individuality while providing unmatched peace of mind and support for families. Because Memory Care is our sole focus, we have the unique ability to design and personally tailor plans around our residents. We see each resident as an individual, understanding that everyone has their own story, specific needs and retained abilities. With that information, we develop personally inspired care plans that value and support each person’s independence. Our team of attentive, caring YourLife™ Personal Care Specialists is on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week to assist with everyday activities, gentle reminders and redirection. Through our signature programming, YourStory, we create an individual experience centered around each resident. From cultural, educational and health and wellness programming, scheduled outings and other special events to personal care, assistance and multiple therapies, we create days with meaning. At YourLife™ of Stuart, our residents and families know that this is a community designed for you, with a lifestyle defined by you. Contact us to learn more! Call 772-212-2448.