Advice for Alzheimer's Caregivers & Hospital Staff
There are circumstances when someone with Alzheimer's disease may need to go into the hospital for an assessment, surgery or some other form of treatment. This can be a challenging time for the patient, the caregiver and hospital staff. In order to reduce the potential for problems, it is wise for both the caregiver(s) and hospital staff to prepare themselves before the admission.
How Caregivers Can Prepare for Hospital Admission
Before the patient is admitted it will be very useful for you to contact and/or visit the hospital staff to discuss your situation. Hospital staff will appreciate this information especially if communication is likely to be difficult. Tell staff about the degree of support you currently offer. Let staff know about the levels of independence the person has, as well as any behaviors that you are aware of but that others may not understand. How, for example, do you know if the patient is in pain or discomfort, or what makes them angry or upset. If you are aware of issues that could cause upset or danger, such as wandering, incontinence, shouting or abusive language, it is very important to prepare staff.
As the caregiver, you will know the importance of familiar habits and routines. Going into the hospital will disrupt these but you can help by getting together some of the person's favorite things like photos, a favorite item of clothing, or maybe perfume or a bedspread if the hospital will allow. It is worth checking out what you can reasonably take but don't be disappointed if this is less than you had hoped as some hospitals have very strict guidelines about what is acceptable in a clinical setting.
How Staff Can Prepare for Hospital Admission
If the patient's caregiver has been in touch they will most likely offer some useful information. Caregivers can sometimes over or understate information, depending on how much they think you may already know or need to know. Not surprisingly it is the latter stages of Alzheimer's that are likely to be more complex in terms of patient care. Try to get the information you feel will be needed for the well-being of the patient and the other patients and staff on the ward.
The most problematic issues for staff tend to relate to wandering, disorientation, shouting and aggressive behavior. Any of these things may occur because of the disease process but can often increase as a result of confusion, pain or anxiety. When communicating to the patient, it can be helpful to look him or her in the eyes and speak in a slow steady and reassuring manner. If you become aware that wandering could be an issue, check the ward for obvious dangers. Be prepared for the fact that confusion can affect many aspects of the patient's behavior. For example, knowing where and when to urinate, or confusing objects or liquids for food or drink. Observation will be important so this needs to be considered in advance.
Article adapted from
"Caring For Someone with Dementia." Care on a Hospital Ward. May 2006. Alzheimers Society. 26 Oct 2006 http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/Caring_for_someone_with_dementia/Health/info_ward.htm.