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Caregiver Tips for Hospitalization of an Alzheimer's Patient - Aging Wisely

If you are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, it is important to be well-prepared for potential hospitalizations. Gary LeBlanc, author of Common Sense Caregiving, recently covered this important topic in his column and we’d like to share some additional tips to help you.

1. Prepare by maintaining a record of key information for your care recipient. You can use a notebook (if you are local) or an online medical/caregiving record keeping system (we will be providing a review of some of these systems in future newsletters-fill out our easy subscription section on the lower right of this page to begin receiving our newsletters).

Important information to keep: list of medications (as well as past medications that have been discontinued and why, so that you can discuss those with providers and note if things are being prescribed that have been a problem before), family member and important contact information, doctors and providers’ information (for example, home health agency or therapy company so that you can update them or provide their information as your preferred provider), allergies and sensitivities, diagnoses and general medical history. Having this information handy will help you to better communicate and feel less stress. Ask for copies of information and keep notes during the hospital stay and follow up visits.

2. Stay with your loved one, or make arrangements for someone to be there. A person with Alzheimer’s often experiences a great deal of confusion with all of the change during the hospitalization and this can cause major problems. They most likely need someone by their side to reassure them, as well as communicate and advocate with hospital staff and providers. This helps providers, as it is challenging for them to do a proper job when someone cannot communicate well and it will lead to better outcomes.

You can hire a home health aide as a sitter (ideally, you have caregivers that have worked with your loved one before, and this may be one reason to consider establishing such a relationship). Just make sure you have armed them with the information they need and that they are well-versed in dementia care. If you are at a distance, a geriatric care manager can fill this role for you through monitoring and advocacy, and communicate to you about the situation. Even if you are local, a care manager serves as a useful caregiver advisor and can help you navigate the healthcare system.

3. Communicate and anticipate. Find out who is managing your loved one’s care, if it is not your regular physician, and determine when they will visit or how you can best communicate with them. Many physicians with outside practices visit before or after office hours, so don’t expect you will see them during business hours. Also find out if a case manager has been assigned, especially if you are going to have to make decisions about rehabilitation or care after the hospital.

Ask the questions you need to feel comfortable with decisions, and talk things over with an outside party when you are undecided or feeling pressured. Decisions can feel rushed in the hospital, and things may come at you suddenly. Plan ahead with family members about how to handle this and communicate to each other. Express your concerns and be vigilant. For example, if you feel that your loved one is not ready to be discharged, you must be the advocate who expresses succinctly and strongly why you believe this.
4. Say thanks. Hospitals can be a challenging environment and not everyone will take the time to understand your loved one’s needs, but hospital staff work hard and many will go out of their way to help you. When they do, express your thanks. Working together is in the best interest of your loved one. Know who to talk to if you have concerns as well.

Contact Aging Wisely at 727-447-5845 for help with hospitalizations. We provide peace of mind for out of town caregivers, taking care of the above tasks and helping you make informed decisions. We also provide crisis intervention and consultation for any family facing the hospitalization of a loved one. Let us help you with questions to ask, things to consider, resources and assessment of next steps.

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