When Your Loved One With Alzheimer’s Needs Hospital Care

My mom had Alzheimer’s disease. She also had Multiple Myeloma (a type of cancer), diabetes, and many other illnesses.

It’s not uncommon for people with Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia to have multiple chronic conditions. And Alzheimer’s can lead to additional health problems.

So an occasional trip to the hospital is to be expected. And that can be pretty scary for someone with dementia. Here are some tips to ease the stress of hospitalization:

Tell your loved one where you’re going. My mom would start crying every time we told her she needed to leave her Kansas City home. I think she may have been afraid we were going to take her to a nursing home and leave her. We had to continuously remind her where we were taking her until after the car pulled out of the driveway. Then she’d begin to relax and enjoy the ride.

Come prepared. Bring a current medication list, your loved one’s living will and power of attorney paperwork, insurance cards, clean underwear, toiletries, contact numbers, and a comfort item (e.g., pillow, blanket).

Talk to staff. Let them know what types of behaviors are typical and what they can do to make your loved one more comfortable without the use of restraints. Keep in mind your loved one may become more agitated and combative when in unfamiliar surroundings.

Request a private room, if feasible. A private room will minimize background noise and decrease the number of people entering and exiting the room.

Be present. If possible, have someone stay with your family member at all times. A person with dementia will have trouble asking and answering questions, and may act out due to fear and an inability to communicate. Having someone there at all times can help make your loved one more comfortable and also prevent potential medical errors. If you can’t be there 24/7, try to be at the hospital during physician rounds, and at mealtimes so you can help with eating.

Involve your loved one as much as possible. Don’t talk about the person with Alzheimer’s as though he or she isn’t present. It’s demeaning, and can also increase frustration.

Get help. If you’re unable to stay with your loved one during his or hospital stay, enlist the help of a Kansas City home care agency that specializes in Alzheimer’s and dementia care. A home health worker can take notes, ask questions for you, help with meals and menu choices, decrease agitation, prevent falls, keep your loved one company, and more.