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Hospitals and Alzheimer’s

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.

Alz card

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.


ellen b said...

What great tips. It really is a wise thing to monitor closely what happens with your loved one in a hospital setting...
It must be real tough to go through this with your mom...

Jerralea said...

Lisa, my heart is touched for what you are going through. I think you are right - my quote WAS meant for you! I pray that God will make His presence so real to you during this time of trial.

Joanne said...

You are going through such a difficult time. I can only imagine what it must be like to watch your Mom fade that way.
Have you read the book:
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
It deals with Alzheimer's Disease.
Praying that you may continue to find strength to be there for your mom...
Hugs and compassion,

Julie said...

I enjoyed checking out your blog :) Its beautiful to read. I love your peaceful & joyful spirit...even in times of serious storms. Praying God blesses you and this time with your mother.

Brenda said...

Even though I don't know personally know anyone with Alzheimers at the moment, all of these tips are helpful in a variety of situations. I also just appreciate learning about this disease from you and being aware of some of the issues.

Great job in educating us.

Stephani Cochran said...

Thanks for teaching us through your experience.

Faith said... are dealing with alot regarding your mama. And what great tips you learned....thank you....
the one thing I've learned this week? to appreciate each day for what it is....seriously....I was getting in a rut...complaining of unfinished house projects, the heat and high humidity of NYS, the budget we are on, etc. etc. And after praying..the Lord impressed on me to just take ONE DAY AT A TIME...and appreciate the blessings He bestows on each one...and to look for the blessing if it isn't obvious....

Barbara H. said...

Those are all wonderful tips. I love the door closed in the hospital, too.

Islandsparrow said...

What a tough time in your life right now. I'm praying the Lord will give you the strength you need. I nursed my mom through MS - a difficult time. But afterwards it gave me a lot of comfort to know that we had done all we could to help her. God bless and keep you.

momma24 said...

Great tips. I can hear the love and concern for your mom in the words you write.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, Lisa. So many aspects I'd never even think of like the loss of taste.

Camille said...

How precious that your Mom has you! Hang in there...looking to the LORD each step of the way ~ HE travels the path WITH you!


Susanne said...

Thank you Lisa. Those are great tips. Love the one about running a fan. I hadn't thought of that, but hospital hallways are very distracting and noisy. That would really help.

Donnetta said...

Thank you for sharing these. I did do a few of these when my daughter was in the hospital very ill, but a few of these were new ideas.

Hopefully I will never need to use them, but great to keep in mind.

What a special gift your concern and companionship is to your mother!

Susan said...

Just saw your blog for the first time. My mom and dad both have alzheimer's disease and are in a nuring home together. You can visit the blog I do about them at It is such a horrible disease.

Lisa notes... said...

Thanks for leaving a comment so I could visit your blog. How precious your parents are! What a blessing that at least they can be together still, and that they have you as their daughter. I subscribed to your blog so I can keep up with your journey. May God bless you along the way!


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