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

Sunrise Senior Living  |  July 31, 2019
What to Do When a Senior with Alzheimer's is Hospitalized
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Whether it is a planned stay or a sudden trip to the emergency room, being hospitalized is frightening and stressful at any age. The discomfort associated with an illness or injury, and the uncertainty of what comes next, is unsettling. For a senior who has Alzheimer’s disease, a hospital admission can be even more difficult.

The change in routine combined with an unfamiliar environment often increases confusion and agitation for an adult with Alzheimer’s disease. Hospital staff aren’t always experts of Alzheimer’s and the unique needs people who live with the disease have. That can lead to problems.

If you are the caregiver for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, these tips are good to review just in case your family member ends up in the hospital.

Hospital Stays and Alzheimer’s Disease

If you know your senior loved one will be admitted to the hospital for a planned surgery or test, discuss their disease with the physicians involved in their care ahead of time. They may be able to connect you with a hospital liaison who can arrange for a room in a quieter area of the hospital or one nearest to the nurses’ station.

When the hospital stay isn’t planned, you might need to request a room change if the environment causes your loved one to be agitated and overly anxious. A few additional steps to make your family member’s hospital stay safer and less traumatic are below.

  • Have family on-site: The strange environment combined with physical discomfort the senior might be feeling can increase agitation, which may put them at risk for a fall or for wandering away from their room. While it may be tough to arrange, having family members or friends in the senior’s hospital room around the clock helps them remain calm and feel safe. Setting up a schedule and having people visit in shifts will make it easier to cover more hours. Some families hire paid caregivers to cover the hours friends and family can’t be present.
  • Post a notice: When someone is hospitalized, there is usually a variety of staff members entering and exiting their room. Some may not be as familiar with Alzheimer’s as others. It can help to discreetly post a sign that indicates your loved one has Alzheimer’s and includes a few tips for communicating with them.
  • Make it familiar: Another way to help keep your loved one from feeling overly stressed is to make their hospital room look as much like home as possible. Set up a few of their favorite photos where they can see them. Bring their robe, slippers, and even their favorite blanket or throw. Objects that remind them of home may aid in relaxation.
  • Mirror home routine: Structure is important for people with memory loss. When a senior with Alzheimer’s disease is unable to stick to their normal routine, they are more likely to experience anxiety and agitation. You may be able to reduce that by bringing elements of their daily routine to the hospital. For example, if they like to start the day with uplifting music, create a playlist on your phone and play it for them. Also pack one or two of their favorite pastimes to help them stay busy between tests and physician visits.

At Sunrise Senior Living, we recognize that adults with Alzheimer’s have unique needs. When those needs are met, it allows them to live their best quality of life. We invite you to call and schedule a tour of the memory care community nearest you to learn more.

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