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Medical Care

Making ER Visits Easier

A visit to the ER can be especially stressful. The experts from NIH SeniorHealth, a division of the National Institutes of Health, suggest some strategies for making it easier:

The experts suggest that you come prepared with some documents, including your health insurance card or policy number; a list of your medications; a list of your health problems; and the names and phone numbers of your doctor and one or two family members or friends.  Because ER visits may occur on the spur of the moment, make sure you keep all this information in one place in your home, and that you have duplicates.

Depending on the problem, you may have a long wait in the emergency room. Consider taking things to make the wait more comfortable, such as something to read and a sweater in case the room is cold.

During your ER visit, ask questions if you do not know what a doctor or other medical staff is doing, such as what medical tests are being done. Make sure you understand what the ER doctor tells you about your health, or ask him or her to write it down.

Also, make sure you know if there is anything special you need to do after you go home from the ER. For example, if you have a bandage, find out when and how to change it. Tell your regular doctor(s) as soon as possible about your visit to the ER.

You should consider asking these questions of medical staff in the ER:

Will you talk to my regular doctor about my care?

Do I need to make special doctor visits for my health problem?

Can you write down what I need to do to care for my health problem?

Is there someone who speaks my language and can explain what I need to do for my health problem? (If you speak a different language.)

For more information from NIH SeniorHealth on what you can expect from doctor visits and staying in the hospital, click here. For information from SeniorHealth on other issues, click here.