We all dread hospitals. It’s only natural. But because we dread them, we try not to think about going to them, and because we don’t think about going to them, we can be caught unprepared. If you are caring for a loved one with dementia, hospital visits can be a level more stressful, so it really helps to prepare in advance. Here are our top suggestions:
Talk about it early on. As early as you can, speak to your parents about hospitals and their wishes. When a dementia diagnosis occurs, it’s best to have this conversation before the disease progresses.
Establish a network. If your senior loved one is admitted to hospital for an extended period, you’re going to need some backup in the form of a reliable network of friends and family who can be there for them – and for you. For families that live far apart, getting to know your parent’s neighbours and friends will really help.
Personal Information sheet. Keep a ‘Personal Information Sheet’ somewhere obvious that will go with your parent to the hospital. These documents are a great aid to hospital workers when working with a patient with dementia. The sheet should contain key information like name, date of birth, degree and history of dementia, and list of prescriptions, as well as more personal notes such as religion, food preferences, favourite things, or anything else you think is relevant.
Planned hospital stays. With dementia, it is likely that at some point there will be planned hospital stays. Take advantage of preparation time to speak to your senior loved one, and call upon your network for visits and help at home. Ask as many questions of your doctor as you can for your first hospital visit so that you all feel fully confident.
In the hospital. Anxiety can easily arise for a person with dementia in an unfamiliar environment, especially if they are unwell or uncomfortable. Speak to the hospital staff about the least overwhelming areas – like waiting in a private room, rather than a busy waiting room, or even removing unnecessary objects from their room which may cause agitation. If there are any objects, music, or programs that are generally calming for your loved one, bring them to the hospital with you.
Helping the hospital workers. Not everyone is accustomed to dementia, so it helps the hospital workers if you explain to them the degree of your parent’s disease, and advise them on how best to address them or calm them. The Personal Information sheet will help with staff handovers.