Alzheimer's Care Resources
Tips for Keeping a Senior with Alzheimer's Safe in an Indiana Hospital
March 17, 2016
An unexpected hospitalization can be frightening for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease and their loved ones. Caregivers know that the disease increases a senior’s risk for falls, wandering in frigid weather conditions and medication mismanagement.
One of the best ways to keep a senior safe is for family caregivers to plan for worst case scenarios. That includes preparing for a sudden trip to the emergency room. Don’t wait until a crisis occurs.
5 Steps to Prepare a Senior with Alzheimer’s for a Hospital Stay
A hospitalization may be planned, such as for a surgery, or it can occur without warning. Planning ahead for either scenario can make a big difference in how well things go.
These 5 steps are ones you can take now to ensure your older loved one with dementia has a safe stay at an Indiana hospital.
- Prepare a binder with the senior’s health information. Include a list of their prescriptions, chronic conditions and any allergies to medications and food.
- Include a separate sheet of paper in the binder with information specifically detailing their Alzheimer’s symptoms. Discuss details such as unique behaviors, mealtime preferences, agitation triggers and sleep patterns.
- Create a photo album or memory book for your loved one’s hospital stay. This is a great resource for redirection and handling anxiety from the new surroundings.
- Pack an “emergency bag” with clothing, toiletries and a few familiar items that can calm the senior’s nerves if you need to wait in the emergency room.
- Before heading to the hospital, add their medications, glasses, dentures, hearing aids and must-have items to their emergency bag.
What Caregivers can do when a Senior is Hospitalized
Being admitted to the hospital is frightening at any age. Many times the fear of the unknown makes the situation all the more stressful. And dementia creates unique risks for older adults that a hospital staff might not have the time or experience to handle.
Our first piece of advice is to try to create a schedule so someone is with the senior during their entire stay. Other tips include:
- During the admitting process, let the staff know that your aging loved one has Alzheimer’s. Keep communication with the hospital staff open and provide help when needed.
- Ask the hospital staff to place a sign near your loved one’s bed to alert team members to their fall risk. According to Caring.com, 10% of falls for aging adults occur in the hospital. A large number of these are seniors with dementia.
- Caregivers should monitor their loved one’s rest schedule. With nurses and physicians coming in and out of the room to perform tests, sleep may be interrupted. It’s crucial for someone with Alzheimer’s to get at least two scheduled rest periods each day.
- An adult child can be a source of familiarity and comfort for the senior. Caregivers can hold their hand and talk with them to ease tension during times of unrest.
- Provide the hospital staff with the senior’s food preferences and remind them the senior might need help filling out menus if you aren’t there. Menus will likely be confusing for someone with Alzheimer's.
How Can an Adult Child Prepare for their Loved One’s Discharge
A social worker typically meets with the family a few days prior to discharge. But with hospital stays getting shorter and shorter, it’s not uncommon for this meeting to occur on the day of discharge. It can catch caregivers off guard and unprepared.
Avoid this stressful situation by preparing for discharge day as soon as your loved one is admitted to the hospital.
- If their physician has indicated that the older adult isn’t safe to return home alone, research senior living communities in the Hoosier State. Some have dedicated Memory Care programs for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease.
- Be certain you know who your loved one’s physician is and their office phone number. You will need it to schedule a follow up appointment for your loved one after they are discharged.
- Work with the rest of your family to determine a caregiving schedule. The first few days after discharge are crucial for an older adult with Alzheimer’s.
- If your loved one is going home, assess their home for potential safety risks such as throw rugs, stairs and non-accessible bathrooms.
While you might not be able to prevent a senior with Alzheimer’s from being hospitalized, preparing ahead can help make their stay go more smoothly and safely.