Hospital stays are never fun, but they can be especially scary for an elderly loved one who suffers from dementia. Going to the hospital could even prove to be dangerous for a person who has dementia. Evidence has shown that people who suffer from dementia are at a greater risk from having adverse issues and outcomes occur following a hospital visit than people in the general population. Even a brief stay has been shown to exacerbate a senior’s dementia and make them more prone to consequences that come with dementia such as falling. Fortunately there are a few things that you as a family caregiver can do to make your elderly loved one’s hospital stay safer and easier. Here are a few tips for the next time your loved one finds themselves cooped up in a hospital bed.
Prepare in Advance
If you are aware that your elderly loved one will be visiting the hospital soon for a procedure or a treatment, then start preparing them early. By talking about their hospital stay with them you can help alleviate some of their fears and concerns. You can also take steps to ease them into the hospital stay. Pack a hospital kit for them with their help. This kit should contain all of their important medical documents and information. It should also include a change of clothing for both you and your loved one and a pen and paper to take notes. Plus, you can add things that they loved like books, movies, or photos to keep them occupied while they are in the hospital. Doctor approved snacks are also a good thing to pack in the hospital kit.
Explain the Situation
If your senior can comprehend what you are saying, then it is important that you explain to them what is going on. You should explain why they are going to the hospital and what is going to happen while they are there. This can help them feel less anxious about the unknown and help them settle into their hospital stay a little easier. If they are resistant about the stay, then try explaining to them that the hospital stay will make them feel better and healthier.
Bring their Home to Them
If your elderly loved one has an object, book, photo album, movie or anything else that keeps them calm at home then bring it with you to the hospital. These items can help keep your loved one calm and stress free.
Ask for a Private Room
Private rooms may not always be available in the hospital that your loved one is staying, but if possible, a private room would be the best option for your loved one. Private rooms offer a more relaxing and calming environment for patients with dementia. They allow you and your loved one to stay in a peaceful environment while your loved one is getting treatment. Talk with your loved one’s doctor before they enter the hospital to ensure that a private room is available when they arrive.
Address the Issue of Worst-Case Safety Scenarios
If your loved one is prone to having fits or outbursts then it is essential that you talk with their doctor about how uncooperative patients are handled in the hospital. Inquire about how outbursts may be handled by the doctors and nurses in the hospital and give their doctor tips on how you handle your loved one’s outbursts. The information you receive may prove to be helpful while your loved one is in the hospital.
Make sure that you ask as many questions as you need to in order to understand your elderly loved one’s diagnosis and treatment plan. Ask about their recovery, medications, and how long they will be in the hospital. You can talk with their doctors or nurses to find out all of the answers you need.
Don’t be Afraid to repeat your Questions and Issues
Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself to every hospital staff member that you meet. Each staff member that is taking care of your elderly loved one should be informed that your loved one suffers from dementia. You should also be prepared to tell them about your loved one’s overall mood and health. Nurses and doctors are not always able to read patient charts thoroughly before checking in on a patient. For this reason, repeat your loved one’s diagnosis to the hospital staff members. Also, don’t be afraid to repeat any questions or issues you might have. Ask questions and repeat any issues until you receive a proper answer or a full answer.
Stay with Your Loved One
Familiar faces are always a blessing in the hospital. Stay by your loved one’s side as much as possible to keep them calm and peaceful. If you cannot stay with them all day, then try to be with them in the evening time during meals and when pertinent medical tests are being performed. Plus, if you can, then try to arrange for other familiar family members and friends to come and sit with your elderly loved one when you are not there. This will help them stay calm and be more cooperative with the hospital staff.
Staying in the hospital is no fun for anyone, let alone someone who has dementia. If your elderly loved one has dementia and is going to be checking into the hospital soon, then you have probably had a few sleepless nights thinking about their impending trip. It is normal to worry about their hospital visit, especially since dementia patients do tend to have issues and adverse side effects of staying in the hospital. If your loved one is checking into the hospital soon then try these tips to keep them calm and collected. These tips can help both you and your loved one feel less anxious and stressed over their impending hospital visit.
For more information, check the following articles in our home care blog on hospital stay: