I’ve been feeling relatively stable lately (heaven forbid I jinx myself here), but reading this blog post yesterday got me to thinking.
Those stable, unaffected moments are the best time to help myself prepare for future emergencies. Creating a game plan now can help save a lot of trouble later, so it is really worth doing a little homework.
First, as mentioned in the post above, have a pre-determined local hospital in the event of an emergency.
I grew up on an Island in the pacific northwest, there is only one hospital for the entire island. Obviously, in that respect, my options were pretty limited.
These days, however, I live in the city and there are 5 or 6 hospitals in my general vicinity. They definitely all have individual reputations for their care in general, but also for what kind of psychiatric services they are able to provide. Do research on the internet, talk to your physician, talk to your insurance, and find out which place will be able to meet your needs in the event of a psychiatric emergency.
Second, a little knowledge about your local inpatient programs goes a long way.
This isn’t applicable everywhere (as psychiatric services vary from state to state) and most people don’t want to even think about an inpatient hospitalization situation, but planning for the worst can help provide you with the best care.
Inpatient situations are admittedly unpleasant, but in Seattle there are places that are notorious for providing more unpleasant experiences than others. Talking to other people with bipolar disorder in your area may prove helpful in getting an inside glimpse of what the care is like at many of these places.
Other good questions to ask about your local inpatient programs:
- How does the admitting process work? (Does one need to be admitted through the emergency room or can one have a referral from their psychiatrist?)
- How long is the wait period typically between getting referred to an inpatient program and actually being admitted?
- Are there specific days of the week where admittance is more likely? (Here you’re more likely to get admitted on a Friday because patients typically want to be discharged before the weekend, making more room for new patients).
- Will there be a psychiatrist on staff when you arrive? (My last hospitalization I had to wait over 24 hours before seeing a psychiatrist after checking in, which was ridiculous).
- Are there group or individual therapy sessions that you will be required to attend?
If inpatient hospitalization is not an option in your area, become familiar with what is available. Having a general understanding of your care options is key.
Third, create a medical card for your wallet or a sheet of paper to bring to the ER with the following information:
- Your primary care doctor’s name and contact information
- Your psychiatrist’s name and contact information
- Your therapist’s name and contact information
- Any diagnoses you may have
- Your current medications and doses
- Your medication allergies, if any
In any situation where I might be prescribed new medication, I like to include:
- Previous medications taken, with maximum doses and side effects experienced
Also, you can always add a mood scale/rating on the sheet that you can circle on your way to the hospital, or a list of mood words, like “agitated” or “suicidal” where you can circle the words that apply to your current state.
This sheet has been particularly helpful for me, often by the time I am having an emergency I begin having trouble expressing myself (in regard to my mood) and remembering important information (like my doctor’s contact information and medication stuff). Beyond that, it is nice when the intake nurse is pleasantly surprised by my preparedness and seriousness about seeking help.
One of the women at my support group suggests also giving a copy of this sheet to someone close to you, in the event they need to assist you to the hospital.
Being as prepared as possible for an emergency is great way to help take some of the anxiety out of bipolar disorder. Taking the unknowns out of emergency situations doesn’t just help those of us with bipolar disorder, it also helps our support networks support us better.