Has your child ever stayed overnight in the hospital? Or your elderly parent or friend? How was their experience?
If they were typical, it was a little frightening.
Add Alzheimer’s disease into the equation.
The situation is suddenly 100 times more confusing.
My mom went back in the hospital Tuesday afternoon. I had already planned to attend a lunch meeting on Wednesday about hospitals and Alzheimer’s. God’s timing, huh?
Julie Cothren, a professionally-certified care manager, taught me several new things. Although her tips are specifically addressed for those with Alzheimer’s, use them for anybody you may care for in the hospital.
I wouldn’t mind somebody using them on me if I were hospitalized!
Here are 5 helpful tips:
1. Keep the door closed
Eliminate as much noise and visual distractions as you can. If you need to, bring in a fan to block out sounds, or a CD player for soothing music.
My mom’s hospital room this time was at the end of the hall and was exceptionally quiet, but we do keep a fan in her room at the assisted living facility to block out noises.
2. Spend the night
Make sure someone they know is with them at all times.
When the nurses came in at midnight to check on my mom, she was incredibly frightened. But I was able to stand near her head and hold her hand while they did their stuff, reassuring her that everything was okay and that she was fine.
3.Cover up the IV
Because you want to avoid restraints if at all possible, be creative in disguising the tubes and wires so they won’t be picked at or pulled out. Cover up an IV line with a blanket; wrap an extra sheet tightly around their waist if they have a catheter; keep a “feel-good” cotton cloth, satin pillowcase, etc., in their free hand to distract them from picking.
4. Sweeten the food
Don’t expect the nurses or aides to feed your loved one. More than likely you’ll have to do it yourself. Because sweetness is the last taste to go, sweeten up the food (if there are no dietary restrictions) with honey, ice cream toppings, etc.
Mama hardly eats anything anymore, but she still likes orange juice and sweet tea. My sister got her to eat a few bites of eggs yesterday morning, but when I suggested she also let her try the grits, Mama took one taste and decided she was finished. I should have known better; Sandy did.
5. Spread the word
Notify everyone—receptionists, nurses, aides—that your loved one has dementia. Tape a sign on the door if you must. Seize the opportunity to teach; surprisingly, even many hospital professionals have had only limited training about Alzheimer’s Disease.
Julie handed out these cards to us at the meeting Wednesday. We can pass them out as discretely as needed when we’re in public to protect the dignity of our loved one, yet still get the word out.
I wish I’d had one a few weeks ago in a waiting room when my mom kept saying, “I feel sick. I feel sick. I feel sick.” I’d have flashed one immediately. Instead, my sisters took Mama out in the hall and I stayed in the waiting room until her name was called. We try our best to do the right thing, but we’re not always sure what that is.
* * *
Live and learn.
Given the choice, I’d rather pick up tips ahead of time instead of discovering them the hard way through experience. I’m thankful for the Alzheimer’s Association in helping with that.
Have you learned anything this week that’s made your life easier?
Join Susanne and friends for more favorites of the week.