If a loved one requires an emergency room visit or is admitted to the hospital it can be a very traumatic experience. However, if you are living with Alzheimer’s disease, this experience takes on a totally different perspective. The loss of memory and other cognitive abilities turns a hospital setting into a very confusing and frightening place.
A hospital is a new environment and that in itself is problematic for Alzheimer’s patients. When you add bright lights, loud noises and strangers rushing around, a confused Alzheimer’s patient requires additional care to ensure safety. Many medical facilities are not staffed with personnel that are trained to understand the complexity of Alzheimer’s behavior. When this occurs, some facilities use medication and/or restraints in an attempt to remove the behavior. To make sure that your loved one is safe and being treated respectfully and compassionately, it is critical to have a family advocate on-site or to hire someone to advocate on behalf of your loved one.
An advocate can assist in providing the increased supervision and care that your loved one needs during this time. A familiar face is crucial to minimize the risks associated with being in a hospital setting. Behaviors associated with Alzheimer’s disease and its symptoms can be more severe in a hospital environment. Unfamiliar people will be conducting tests at odd hours of the day and night. There could be some tests and procedures that may not need to occur at all. An alternative solution may be an option. Always ask on behalf of your loved one if a test/procedure is absolutely necessary.
Here are some key issues that need to be addressed:
Notify the medical personnel interacting with your loved one that he/she has Alzheimer’s. Many Alzheimer’s patients will not understand why they are in a hospital. This will add to the confusion and increase the stress level for all involved. Your loved one may become anxious, agitated and uncooperative. The medical staff may react negatively to this which will turn a bad situation to worse within minutes. Make sure that it is communicated to all shifts that your loved one has Alzheimer’s disease. Remind them that verbal communication is difficult for your loved one so they may feel pain or discomfort without verbalizing the symptom. Medical personnel need to look for other signs of pain or discomfort.
Try to get a private room. This will minimize noise and activity occurring in the room.
Be cognizant that the TV can increase the anxiety level for an Alzheimer’s patient. You may want to have it turned off a majority of the hospital stay.
Using the bathroom will be a major problem in a hospital environment. You should know where the nearest bathroom is and provide assistance to your loved one in locating it on a regular basis.
Once admitted, there could be tubes inserted into their body which will be a foreign object to an Alzheimer’s patient. The patient may try to remove tubes on their own.
Many Alzheimer’s patients will not understand or remember how to use a call button while lying in their hospital bed.
Bedside rails may be confusing to an Alzheimer’s patients as well as a safety issue if they attempt to climb over the rails.
The food selection and eating process at a hospital will be very different from what they are used to and can be difficult for an Alzheimer’s patient. Medical staff will not stay in the room to assist your loved one in eating.
60% of people living with Alzheimer’s wander. This is a common occurrence in hospitals so supervision is required at all times.
It is unfortunate that a hospital stay may be necessary for a person living with Alzheimer’s. Safety and security should be your main concerns. Always assume that more help will be required for your loved one in a hospital setting than in their own home. If you keep this in mind and proactively manage the situation, the outcome will be more positive for you, your loved one, and the medical staff.