Elders exposed to hospital stays can become very disoriented, to the point of delirium, which is difficult to distinguish from dementia. The scary part is that some never totally recover, once they return home. Also scary, is that fact that many medical professionals don't know about, or completely understand, this problem.
I wrote about this situation for OurAlzheimer's in,"Is It Dementia or Delirium?". The strange, cold environment, ever changing staff and constant level of noise that people are exposed to in a hospital setting can be hard on anyone. This setting, along with drugs, fast talking staff and impersonal treatment can push an elder over the edge of reality into a mental state of delirium.
The National Institute on Aging has now published a valuable resource for people who have elders who absolutely must endure a hospital stay. This guide is one we should all read, as even a short stay for an elder can be devastating, especially an elder with any type of memory disorder or dementia.
The booklet, "Hospitalization Happens: A Guide to Hospital Visits for Individuals with Memory Loss," lists practical things you, the caregiver, can do to help make the hospital stay less traumatic for the elder and one which, one can hope, will not have lasting effects on the elder's mental and physical health.
The booklet has chapters titled, "Hospital Emergencies," " What You Can Do Now," "Pack an Emergency Bag," "At the Emergency Room," "Before a Hospital Stay," "During the Hospital Stay," "If Anxiety or Agitation Occurs," "Working with Hospital Staff" and how to "Make Contact with Helpful Resources." All of these chapters have lists of details to help you help the elder through the ordeal.
The main thought in all of these practical steps is that your elder needs an advocate. You, the caregiver and advocate, need to stay on top of things. The elder needs to take along whatever he or she is allowed to have, that is familiar. The more family contact the better. The closer you watch the drugs given, the better for all concerned. You need to know exactly what procedures were done and the drugs given in the hospital. Then you need to compare that information with the instructions given upon release.
None of these steps will guarantee that the elder won't become disoriented from the hospital stay, or even cross into delirium. But they will help. "Hospitalization Happens: A Guide to Hospital Visits for Individuals with Memory Loss," is something that is best read before the emergency. The advice will help at any time, but being prepared could spare your elder - and you - some agony during a time that will, quite likely, be very difficult, anyway.
Download "Hospitalization Happens: A Guide to Hospital Visits for Individuals with Memory Loss,' at www.nia.nih.gov/Alzheimers/Publications/happens.htm. Read it and take necessary steps to be prepared. Please do it now, before an emergency sends you into crisis mode.
Published On: February 13, 2009