Going to the Hospital: Tips for Dementia Caregivers

Posted on

Jan 12, 2024

Book/Edition

Pennsylvania - Greater Pittsburgh Area

Share This

A trip to the hospital can be stressful for people with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia and their caregivers. Being prepared for an emergency and planned hospital visits can relieve some of that stress. This article suggests ways to help you prepare and tips for making your visit to the emergency room or hospital easier.

Hospital visits and COVID-19

Due to COVID-19, hospitals continue to update appointment and visitor policies to comply with state department of health guidelines to protect the health and safety of patients, visitors, and employees. For example, visitors may be required to wear a face mask or cloth face covering. Or they may not be allowed to accompany patients in clinics, hospital departments or the emergency room, with exceptions in certain cases. Before you plan a visit, call or check the hospital’s website for information on their policies. Get the latest public health information on the coronavirus at coronavirus.gov.

Hospital emergencies: What you can do

A trip to the emergency room (ER) can tire and frighten a person with Alzheimer’s or other dementia. Here are some ways to cope:

  • Ask a friend or family member to go with you or meet you in the ER. He or she can stay with the person while you answer questions.
  • Be ready to explain the symptoms and events leading up to the ER visit—possibly more than once to different staff members.
  • Tell ER staff that the person has dementia. Explain how best to talk with the person.
  • Comfort the person. Stay calm and positive. How you are feeling will get absorbed by others.
  • Be patient. It could be a long wait if the reason for your visit is not life-threatening.
  • Recognize that results from the lab take time.
  • Realize that just because you do not see staff at work does not mean they are not working.
  • Be aware that emergency room staff have limited training in Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, so try to help them better understand the person.
  • Encourage hospital staff to see the person as an individual and not just another patient with dementia who is confused and disoriented from the disease.
  • Do not assume the person will be admitted to the hospital.
  • If the person must stay overnight in the hospital, try to have a friend or family member stay with him or her.

Do not leave the emergency room without a plan. If you are sent home, make sure you understand all instructions for follow-up care.

What to pack

An emergency bag with the following items, packed ahead of time, can make a visit to the ER go more smoothly:

  • Health insurance cards
  • Lists of current medical conditions, medicines being taken, and allergies
  • Healthcare providers’ names and phone numbers
  • Copies of healthcare advance directives (documents that spell out a patient’s wishes for end-of-life care)
  • “Personal information sheet” stating the person’s preferred name and language; contact information for key family members and friends; need for glasses, dentures, or hearing aids; behaviors of concern; how the person communicates needs and expresses emotions; and living situation
  • Snacks and bottles of water
  • Incontinence briefs, if usually worn, moist wipes, and plastic bags
  • Comforting objects or music player with earphones
  • A change of clothing, toiletries, and personal medications for yourself
  • Pain medicine, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or aspirin—a trip to the emergency room may take longer than you think, and stress can lead to a headache or other symptoms
  • A pad of paper and pen to write down information and directions given to you by hospital staff
  • A small amount of cash
  • A note on the outside of the emergency bag to remind you to take your cell phone and charger with you

By taking these steps in advance, you can reduce the stress and confusion that often accompany a hospital visit, particularly if the visit is an unplanned trip to the emergency room.

Before a planned hospital stay

With Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, it is wise to accept that hospitalization is a “when” and not an “if” event. Due to the nature of the disease, it is very probable that, at some point, the person you are caring for will be hospitalized. Keep in mind that hospitals are not typically well-designed for patients with dementia. Preparation can make all the difference. Here are some tips.

  • Think about and discuss hospitalization before it happens, and as the disease and associated memory loss progress. Hospitalization is a choice. Talk about when hospice may be a better and more appropriate alternative.
  • Build a care team of family, friends, and/or professional caregivers to support the person during the hospital stay. Do not try to do it all alone.
  • Ask the doctor if the procedure can be done during an outpatient visit. If not, ask if tests can be done before admission to the hospital to shorten the hospital stay.
  • Ask questions about anesthesia, catheters, and IVs. General anesthesia can have side effects, so see if local anesthesia is an option.
  • Ask if regular medications can be continued during the hospital stay.
  • Ask for a private room, with a reclining chair or bed, if insurance will cover it. It will be calmer than a shared room.
  • Involve the person with dementia in the planning process as much as possible.
  • Do not talk about the hospital stay in front of the person as if he or she is not there. This can be upsetting and embarrassing.
  • Shortly before leaving home, tell the person with dementia that the two of you are going to spend a short time in the hospital.

During the hospital stay

While the person with dementia is in the hospital:

  • Ask doctors to limit questions to the person, who may not be able to answer accurately. Instead, talk with the doctor in private, outside the person’s room.
  • Help hospital staff understand the person’s normal functioning and behavior. Ask them to avoid using physical restraints or medications to control behaviors.
  • Have a family member, trusted friend, or hired caregiver to always stay with the person with Alzheimer’s if possible—even during medical tests. This may be hard to do, but it will help keep the person calm and less frightened, making the hospital stay easier.
  • Tell the doctor immediately if the person seems suddenly worse or different. Medical problems such as fever, infection, medication side effects, and dehydration can cause delirium, a state of extreme confusion and disorientation.
  • Ask friends and family to make calls or use email or online tools to keep others informed about the person’s progress.
  • Help the person fill out menu requests. Open food containers and remove trays. Assist with eating as needed.
  • Remind the person to drink fluids. Offer fluids regularly and have him or her make frequent trips to the bathroom.
  • Assume the person will experience difficulty finding the bathroom and/or using a call button, bed adjustment buttons, or the phone.
  • Communicate with the person in the way he or she will best understand and respond.
  • Recognize that an unfamiliar place, medicines, invasive tests, and surgery will make a person with dementia more confused. He or she will likely need more assistance with personal care.
  • Take deep breaths and schedule breaks for yourself!

If anxiety or agitation occurs, try the following:

  • Remove personal clothes from sight; they may remind the person of getting dressed and going home.
  • Post reminders or cues, like a sign labeling the bathroom door, if this comforts the person.
  • Turn off the television, telephone ringer, and intercom. Minimize background noise to prevent overstimulation.
  • Talk in a calm voice and offer reassurance. Repeat answers to questions when needed.
  • Provide a comforting touch or distract the person with offers of snacks and beverages.
  • Consider “unexpressed pain” (i.e., furrowed brow, clenched teeth, or fists, kicking). Assume the person has pain if the condition or procedure is normally associated with pain. Ask for pain evaluation and treatment every 4 hours—especially if the person has labored breathing, loud moaning, crying, or grimacing, or if you are unable to console or distract him or her.
  • Listen to soothing music or try comforting rituals, such as reading, praying, singing, or reminiscing.
  • Slow down; try not to rush the person.
  • Avoid talking about subjects or events that may upset the person.

Working with hospital staff

Remember that not everyone in the hospital knows the same basic facts about memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, and related dementias. You may need to help teach hospital staff what approach works best with the person with Alzheimer’s, what distresses or upsets him or her, and ways to reduce this distress.

You can help the staff by providing them with a personal information sheet that includes the person’s normal routine, how he or she prefers to be addressed (e.g., Miss Minnie, Dr. James, Jane, Mr. Miller, etc.), personal habits, likes and dislikes, possible behaviors (what might trigger them and how best to respond), and nonverbal signs of pain or discomfort.

Help staff understand what the person’s “baseline” is (prior level of functioning) to help differentiate between dementia and acute confusion or delirium.

You should:

  • Place a copy of the personal information sheet with the chart in the hospital room and at the nurse’s station.
  • With the hospital staff, decide who will do what for the person with Alzheimer’s disease. For example, you may want to be the one who helps with bathing, eating, or using the bathroom.
  • Inform the staff about any hearing difficulties and/or other communication problems, and offer ideas for what works best in those instances.
  • Make sure the person is safe. Tell the staff about any previous issues with wandering, getting lost, falls, suspiciousness and/or delusional behavior.
  • Not assume the staff knows the person’s needs. Inform them in a polite, calm manner.
  • Ask questions when you do not understand certain hospital procedures and tests or when you have any concerns. Do not be afraid to be an advocate.
  • Plan early for discharge. Ask the hospital discharge planner about eligibility for home health services, equipment, or other long-term care options. Prepare for an increased level of caregiving.
  • Realize that hospital staff are providing care for many people. Practice the art of patience.

For more information on dealing with dementia and hospitalization, see the University of California, San Francisco, Memory and Aging Center’s Tips for Hospitalization.

You may also be interested in

  • Reading more about advance care planning
  • Learning about common medical problems that occur with Alzheimer's
  • Finding resources for getting help with Alzheimer's caregiving

For more information about hospitalization and Alzheimer's

NIA Alzheimer’s and related Dementias Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center
800-438-4380
adear@nia.nih.gov
www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers
The NIA ADEAR Center offers information and free print publications about Alzheimer’s and related dementias for families, caregivers, and health professionals. ADEAR Center staff answer telephone, email, and written requests and make referrals to local and national resources.

Alzheimers.gov
www.alzheimers.gov
Explore the Alzheimers.gov website for information and resources on Alzheimer’s and related dementias from across the federal government.

Eldercare Locator
800-677-1116
eldercarelocator@USAging.org
https://eldercare.acl.gov

This content is provided by the NIH National Institute on Aging (NIA). NIA scientists and other experts review this content to ensure it is accurate and up to date. Reprinted from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/alzheimers-caregiving/going-hospital-tips-dementia-caregivers?fbclid=IwAR2i1Hsl_Vk9x442hJ4dSxJ3qOSjGNGu63oMquXB9AKFpr5DNHGZL9K46dQ.  

Other Articles You May Like

Veterans Benefits for Assisted Living Care

Did you know there are financial assistance programs available to veterans who need assisted living care? Our veterans made numerous sacrifices to uphold the freedom we enjoy today while their families kept the home fires burning. They are entitled to many benefits in appreciation for all they endured for America.Veterans benefits for senior living are available for qualifying veterans and their surviving spouses, as long as the veteran served at least 90 days of active duty, including at least one day during a wartime period, and received an honorable or general discharge.Veterans Aid and Attendance for assisted living careOffered through the Department of Veterans Affairs, Aid and Attendance is a monthly pension benefit that can help cover the costs of assisted living care. It is available for wartime veterans and their spouses who have limited income and require the regular attendance of a caregiver.Aid and Attendance is designed for individuals who need assistance from another person to complete everyday activities such as bathing, dressing and assistance with other daily activities. A veterans need for this benefit does not need to be the result of their military service.Funds received from Aid and Attendance benefits can offer a monthly benefit to help pay for assisted living and long-term care for a qualifying veteran and their spouse. The actual monthly benefit is determined by the veterans assets, income and medical expenses and conditions.Contact your local county Veterans Services office with questions on how to apply by visiting www.benefits.va.gov/vso.MedicareMedicare will pay for short-term care at nursing and rehabilitation facilities for seniors who need these services after an illness or injury that requires hospitalization. Medicare does not cover the cost for assisted living, home care or other senior living services.Long-Term Care BenefitsThe Veterans Administration provides both short- and long-term care in skilled nursing settings for veterans who cannot care for themselves. This benefit does not cover assisted living or home care.Housebound BenefitsVeterans confined to their homes and requiring assisted living care may be best suited to receive Housebound benefits. This program provides an increased monthly pension amount for those confined to their home due to a permanent disability.Applying for BenefitsThe Veterans Administration has regional offices that provide Veteran Service Organization representatives who may be able to answer simple questions about assisted living benefits, as well as provide free, basic advice on the application process.Many veterans seeking advice on applying for assisted living benefits hire a qualified attorney accredited by the VA or an accredited claims agent, who has passed a written exam about VA laws and procedures.The application process for assisted living benefits is often very lengthy. It is important to be thorough when completing the application and have all required documentation gathered and ready to submit.There are additional financial options to pay for assisted living care for individuals who do not qualify for veterans benefit. Click to find out more about financial options for senior living.Country Meadows offers affordable assisted living or personal care on its nine campuses in Pennsylvania and one in Frederick, Maryland. Our friendly co-workers are always available to help! Contact us today for more information.

Assisted Living Tours: Find the Right Fit for Your Loved One

Assisted Living Tours: Find the Right Fit for Your Loved OneBy: Country Meadows |  Assisted LivingWe spend our entire lives raising families, managing households, working, balancing checkbooks and making countless decisions. As we age, these everyday duties can become more and more challenging. Making a well-informed and thoughtful choice about assisted living for yourself or a loved one is a significant decision that can impact overall well-being. Too often people wait until a crisis occurs, necessitating a quick decision when selecting senior living. Preparing for assisted living by researching options and taking assisted living tours allows individuals to thoughtfully select senior living accommodations.There are many reasons why visiting and taking assisted living tours in advance are important.Facility atmospherePaying visits and taking in-person assisted living tours allow you to see for yourself the overall atmosphere and ambience of the community. This includes noting cleanliness and the layout as well as the general feeling of the environment. This firsthand experience can provide insights into whether a community is a good fit for personal preferences and comfort.Staff interactionDuring assisted living tours, meeting staff members and interacting with current residents can provide valuable insights. Note the level of professionalism, friendliness and responsiveness of the staff while gauging the overall satisfaction and happiness of residents. Pay attention to staff achievements and organizational awards such as certifications in programs that recognize great places to work.Establishing relationships with co-workers and management during a visit provides customers with insights as to the teams willingness to communicate and work with residents and their families, fostering a sense of trust and confidence in the care to be provided.Services and amenitiesAssisted living communities offer various services and amenities. By visiting and taking assisted living tours, you can personally evaluate the quality and context of services offered, such as dining options, activities, care, transportation and other options. This helps ensure the facility meets specific needs and expectations.Care philosophyEvery assisted living community may have a unique approach to delivering care. By visiting and taking assisted living tours, you can ask thoughtful questions and gain a better understanding of the facilitys care philosophy to determine if it aligns with expectations.Safety and accessibilityTaking assisted living tours helps seniors assess safety and accessibility features in a community. This may include building layout, emergency response system options and general safety measures and policies. Understanding these aspects is vital for ensuring a secure living environment.Stress and anxietyKnowing and being familiar with potential living arrangements in advance reduces the stress and anxiety associated with making urgent decisions. Taking assisted living tours provides familiarity with the location and offers a sense of security during what can be a challenging time.Good fitUltimately, assisted living tours help prospective residents ensure the community is a good fit for individual wants and needs. Factors such as cultural compatibility, community engagement and overall feel of the environment is subjective and only can be assessed through direct experience.Time for questionsDuring assisted living tours, visitors have the chance to ask questions and seek clarification about various aspects of what everyday life will be like in the community. This helps individuals obtain detailed information about policies, costs and other factors that help customers make informed decisions.Plan for the futureVisiting and taking assisted living tours before a crisis allows individuals opportunities for better long-term planning. It provides the time to explore different options, compare facilities and make decisions based on careful consideration rather than under the pressure of urgent circumstances.Country Meadows

Pet Friendly Senior Living Benefits All Animal Lovers

Pet Friendly Senior Living Benefits All Animal LoversBy: Country Meadows |  Senior LivingThe bond between humans and animals is complex and deeply rooted. Studies have shown time and time again that animal companions can offer numerous benefits for people of all ages and can be a valuable tool in healthy aging. In pet friendly senior living, furry friends enhance the overall quality of life for residents.Some retirement communities like Country Meadows offer pet friendly senior living. For residents who dont have a pet of their own, each campus has house pets for everyone to love, spoil and enjoy. And Dynamic Living teams plan visits to and from animal rescue groups, volunteer opportunities to make pet toys and treats and special events such as dog weddings and furry sweethearts.Pets provide many benefits, including:CompanionshipPets provide companionship and emotional support, reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation that some seniors may experience. A pet friendly senior living community provides many opportunities to interact with animals, whether individual pets or therapy animals.Stress reductionInteracting with pets has been shown to lower stress levels and promote relaxation, which can be especially valuable for seniors dealing with the challenges of aging. Staff at a pet friendly senior living community can help older adults provide care for beloved furry friends when needed.Physical activityHaving a pet encourages regular physical activity, such as walking dogs or playing with cats, which can help seniors stay active and maintain a healthier lifestyle.Social interactionPets can serve as conversation starters, fostering connections between residents and encouraging social interactions within the community. At pet friendly senior living, meeting neighbors animals is a great way to break the ice, start conversations and make new friends.Routine and structureTaking care of a pet can establish a daily routine and provides a sense of purpose, providing responsibility and stability.Improved mental healthSeveral studies have shown that pets boost mood and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, contributing to overall mental well-being. Pet friendly senior living provides many opportunities for residents to interact with animals, whether the pet lives on campus, is visiting or is part of an educational presentation.Cognitive stimulationInteracting with pets can stimulate cognitive functions, such as memory and problem-solving skills, which are essential for maintaining mental sharpness in our later years. Activities involving animals are effective in helping residents living with dementia in pet friendly senior living.Even if a resident chooses not to own their own furry friend, various animal-related activities are planned to provide opportunities for seniors to interact with pets. Some of these activities include:Pet therapyAnimals certified in therapy, such as dogs, cats, rabbits, birds and even reptiles, visit pet friendly senior living communities to interact with residents. Therapy animals are known for their gentle temperament and are specifically trained to provide comfort and companionship. Residents can pet, cuddle or simply spend time with animals.Educational presentationsSome pet friendly senior living facilities invite animal experts to bring a variety of animals such as exotic birds, reptiles, small mammals and others, for residents to interact with and learn about.Volunteer opportunitiesMany residents at pet friendly senior living communities enjoy supporting local animal rescues. At Country Meadows, residents make dog biscuits for local shelters as well as toys and treats. And residents look forward to visiting shelters in their respective areas to donate items in person and meet shelter residents.BirdwatchingRegardless of whether or not one lives at a pet friendly senior living community, birdwatching is a fun opportunity to observe and enjoy local birds. At Country Meadows, residents often enjoy birding walks during which experts point out different birds, talk about their unique traits and educate residents about local habitats.Special activitiesPet friendly senior living communities like Country Meadows are able to offer unique interactions with various types of animals. At Country Meadows of Wyomissing, residents enjoyed a therapeutic puppy yoga session, which was more about cuddling than yoga. At the Forks in Easton location, residents spent their Valentines Day receiving pooch smooches from local shelter dogs, while at Country Meadows of Wyomissing, residents were invited to attend a doggie wedding.AquariumsHaving an aquarium in common areas or resident apartments can be therapeutic. Watching colorful fish swim can be relaxing and help reduce anxiety and stress. Aquariums often can be found regardless of whether or not a community offers pet friendly senior living.Pet friendly living at Country MeadowsWith research demonstrating that seniors benefit from regular animals, Country Meadows offers pet friendly senior living at each of its nine locations in Pennsylvania and one in Frederick, Maryland. Please contact us today to request information or to schedule a visit to meet our residents-human, canine, feline and avian! We look forward to meeting you.