What to Do When a Senior with Alzheimer’s is Hospitalized

February 19, 2018

When a senior with Alzheimer's is hospitalizedA hospital visit can be especially difficult for people with Alzheimer’s. Use these tips to help make their stay go more safely and smoothly.

A planned or unexpected trip to the hospital is frightening and stressful at any age. The clinical environment can make it hard to rest. The pain and discomfort of the illness or injury, as well as the uncertainty of what comes next, can be unsettling. When a senior with Alzheimer’s is hospitalized, the experience can be even more difficult. The change in routine and strange environment can increase confusion and agitation. The following tips can help you better manage a loved one’s hospitalization.

Hospital Admissions and Alzheimer’s Disease

If a senior you love has Alzheimer’s disease and they are scheduled to be admitted to the hospital for surgery or another procedure, talk with your physician about your concerns ahead of time. They might be able to connect you with a hospital liaison who can arrange for a private room or a room in a quieter area of the hospital.

Also make sure you understand what to expect from the procedure and the recovery that follows. Specifically discuss:

  • Risks and potential complications
  • Expected recovery time and special needs
  • If and how the procedure might be impacted by your loved one’s disease

The good news is that there are steps you can take to make a hospital stay less traumatic for a senior loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease or a similar form of dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association suggests:

  • One-on-one coverage: Having someone in your loved one’s hospital room around the clock is especially important. The unfamiliar environment might increase agitation and put the senior at risk for a fall or for wandering. It also helps keep everyone informed if a family member is in the room during times the physicians visit and when medications are given. Some families have found it helpful to hire a paid caregiver to cover the hours of the day when loved ones can’t be present.
  • Make the room look familiar: Another tip is to make the hospital room look as much like home as possible. Bring the senior’s photos from home, their robe and slippers, and their favorite blanket or throw.
  • Comforting routine: Part of the challenge when a senior with Alzheimer’s is hospitalized is the change in routine. Structure is important for people with memory loss. When they are unable to stick with their normal structure, they are more likely to experience anxiety and agitation. Whenever possible, bring elements of their daily routine to the hospital. If they like to listen to music in the morning, for example, set up a playlist on your phone and use it in their room. Or if afternoons are spent engaged in craft projects, find ways to keep them busy with simple projects between procedures and tests.
  • Non-verbal communication: Since adults with Alzheimer’s often lose their verbal communication skills fairly early in the disease process, looking for non-verbal signs of trouble is important. Pay special attention to facial expressions and body language that might signal they are in pain or experiencing discomfort.

Plan Now for an Unscheduled Hospitalization

While no one likes to think the worst, planning for the unexpected is important when a senior has Alzheimer’s disease. One way to do this is by assembling an emergency bag you can quickly grab in the event of a surprise trip to the hospital. Your emergency kit should include:

  • Contact information for all physicians and health care providers involved in their care
  • Medical history that denotes previous surgeries, health problems, and hospitalizations
  • Current medication list, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and supplements
  • List of any known allergies and previous problems with medications
  • Copies of advance directives, as well as insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid cards
  • A note you can post at their bedside that explains their disease along with any notable concerns like wandering behavior or falls
  • A change of clothes and necessary personal hygiene products.

The National Institute on Aging’s Guide to Hospital Visits for Individuals with Memory Loss has additional tips you might find useful if a loved one with Alzheimer’s is hospitalized.

Memory Care at Legacy Senior Living

If you are considering a memory care program for someone you love, we hope Legacy Senior Living is on your list of potential care partners. The Harbor, our state of the art memory care, is designed to help each resident live up to their highest potential every day.

We invite you to call the Legacy community nearest you to learn more today!