Strangers asking a million questions, unfamiliar beeping noises, unpleasant smells, disorienting hallways and rooms that look nothing like home, feeling unwell or in pain…all these factors can make a hospital visit a traumatic experience, especially for individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias.
Here’s a set of tips to consider before, during and after your loved one’s hospital visit to ensure it goes as smoothly and safely as possible.
Emergencies can happen at any time, so the more you think and plan ahead for a potentially stressful situation, the easier it will be on you and your loved one with dementia.
Keep your senior’s health information handy. Download this senior emergency toolkit to make sure you’ll have all the necessary information gathered in an easy-to-access location.
Prepare a list of your loved one’s unique behavioral habits for the hospital staff in order to enhance communication and cooperation. Include mealtime preferences and abilities, agitation triggers, best and worst times of the day, etc.
Make sure eyeglasses, hearing aids, dentures, medications or other necessary personal items go to the hospital with your senior. If you have a chance, consider also packing a bag of clothing, toiletries, and one or two familiar items that can help calm or occupy your loved one during a long wait in the ER.
Share your senior’s medical history and behavior tip sheet with anyone attending to your loved one.
Be there to help answer questions and smooth the communication.
Be a source of reassurance and familiarity for your loved one. Your presence and verbal reminders of what’s going on may help ease the confusion.
Arrange for someone to supervise your loved one at all times. Hospitals are very disorienting to someone with dementia and anything can happen during the sometimes long intervals between routine staff member visits. According to Caring.com, 10 percent of fatal falls for older adults occur in hospitals, many of which are due to disorientation and confusion in patients with dementia. If you can’t stay bedside 24/7, take shifts with family members or hire a companionship caregiver.
Plan ahead for discharge. Sometimes it’s tough to know exactly when discharge will take place and what your loved one’s condition will be like at that time, but in the meantime you can do your research and know your options. This article about Alzheimer’s care options can get you started.
While these tips and considerations will make a hospital visit much less stressful for you and your loved one, the best way to manage hospital visits for individuals with Alzheimer’s or other dementias is to prevent them. According to a study in the January 11 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, about two-thirds of the hospitalizations that occur in people with dementia are for potentially preventable illnesses, such as a urinary tract infection, that arise due to neglected self-care.
To prevent hospitalizations from such potentially avoidable health issues, make sure your loved one is receiving the proper amount of care. If you can’t always be there to help your loved one manage, look into hiring a home care companion from a non-medical senior home care agency such as your local Home Instead® office. Home Instead CAREGivers℠ are trained to provide personalized Alzheimer’s care for seniors with memory loss, while helping them maintain their independence, which could make all the difference in preventing a trip to the hospital.