If you are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, there’s a good chance they will be hospitalized at some point. Most people assume they will leave the hospital feeling better than when they arrived. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case for adults with dementia.
Hospitals and Alzheimer’s
There are many reasons why hospital stays negatively affect people with dementia. Sadly, most hospitals are not designed for people with cognitive disabilities.
Here are a few facts about hospitals and dementia:
- Patients with Alzheimer’s are twice as likely to suffer from preventable complications.
- The average stay for adults with Alzheimer’s is longer than for those admitted for the same condition.
- Dementia patients are usually given less pain medication than those without the disease. Uncontrolled pain increases their risk of delirium, which can be fatal.
When a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Is Hospitalized
One of the best ways to protect your loved ones from the dangers of hospital stays is preparation. By understanding the potential threats, caregivers can prevent and minimize many common complications. Here are 4 things caregivers can do to protect their loved ones when they are hospitalized:
- Bring a hospital bag.
It’s common for people with Alzheimer’s to need hospitalization. It’s a good idea to prepare a bag in case the need arises. Having a bag will help you avoid unnecessary stress during an emergency.
A few items to pack include:
- Identification card
- Insurance cards
- Medication list
- Advance care directives
- An extra set of clothes and essential personal care items
- Inform the staff.
Hospital staff members aren’t always familiar with dementia. It’s important to inform the doctors and nurses who will be interacting with your loved one about their condition. This can help prevent a misdiagnosis and other preventable complications.
Let the hospital know:
- How to interact with your loved one
- Your loved one’s mental capacity
- Behaviors they exhibit linked to Alzheimer’s
- Take measures to prevent wandering.
Wandering is common among adults with dementia. This behavior can be more dangerous in hospital settings because the environment is unfamiliar. If your loved one has a history of wandering, let the staff know they may try to get out of bed. Also, take the initiative to prevent accidents if they do wander.
You can do this by:
- Making sure they wear nonslip socks.
- Making sure someone is with them at all times.
- Labeling the bathroom so they easily find it.
- Watch for signs of discomfort.
Adults in the later stages of Alzheimer’s may be unable to communicate their feelings. This can make it difficult to know if they are in pain. It’s important to pay close attention to any signs that may indicate they are uncomfortable. If you do notice anything, inform the doctor.
Signs to watch for include:
- Sighing or grunting
- Pointing to a particular area on their body
- Saying anything that may indicate discomfort like, “not right”
Memory Care at Heritage Senior Communities
If you are concerned your loved one is at risk for hospitalization, it may be time to explore assisted living. Many communities, including Heritage, have specialized dementia care programs designed to keep seniors out of the hospital. Contact us today to schedule a private tour!