Despite your best efforts to care for your loved one, hospitalizations happen. It is important to keep in mind that most hospitals are not designed for people with dementia. The following list may help you support your loved one:
- Be prepared by asking a lot of questions including those about procedures and medications.
- Take a current medication list and copies of advanced care plans and medical POA's. Find out if routine medications will be continued during the hospital stay.
- Request a private room if insurance will cover it and enlist the help of family, friends or agencies to sit with your loved one when you cannot.
- Avoid talking about your loved one in front of them. Instead speak to the doctor and nurses outside the room.
- Alert the staff immediately if you notice sudden changes.
- You may have to remind staff frequently that your loved one cannot do routine things like take medication unsupervised or fill out a menu card.
- Post reminders and positive words around the room like "You are in St Mary's hospital. You are safe."
- Label items around the room, like the bathroom door or the phone with pictures.
- Being in an unfamiliar environment is very disorienting and that can increase agitation.
- Look for signs of unexpressed pain like moaning, clenching fists, rocking, or grabbing at clothing.
- Visitors are great for the caregiver but may be overwhelming for the person with Alzheimer's so consider having friends and family visit you in the waiting area instead of the patient's room.
- Play soft music to drown out the busy and sometimes frightening sounds of a hospital. Before discharge, be sure to talk to a social worker or discharge planner. They will help you plan for a safe discharge and can refer you to community resources set up home medical equipment.
- There are many services available to you in the home with a doctor's order including home nursing and physical therapy visits and access to a social worker. If you don't feel comfortable taking your loved one home yet, say something. It is better to do that and get the help you need than to end up back in the hospital a few days later. Some insurance companies even offer geriatric care managers.
Finally, let the hospital staff take care of your loved one and and use this time to take mini breaks for yourself.