Whether a loved one is hospitalized for a planned procedure or an unplanned medical crisis, you may be left feeling helpless and vulnerable. You’re fully trusting the trained medical professionals to satisfy all your loved one’s needs during their hospital stay and to know just what to do to help keep them feeling comfortable. However, as a family caregiver for an older loved one, you do have a crucial role to play: as the older adult’s advocate.
Prior to a need arising, it’s a great idea to have a plan established for how you can best provide the advocacy and support a loved one needs. These tips can help.
How to Provide Advocacy for Older Adults in the Hospital
- Watch for hospital-induced delirium. This is a surprisingly prevalent condition that can occur for many different reasons. In some instances, narcotics and anti-anxiety meds induce delirium. Another possible cause is insufficient sleep due to the ongoing monitoring, bright lights, and noises throughout the night. To help, keep the door closed as much as possible to reduce hallway noise, and ask for the lights to be turned down as low as possible during the night. Visit the person frequently to watch for signs and symptoms of delirium. Your presence will provide a familiar face to help ground them while in an unfamiliar environment.
- Offer engaging activities. Offer a welcome diversion from the stress of being hospitalized by playing quiet music they enjoy, reading a book aloud, staying with them at mealtime, or watching a movie together. Make sure they are updated on family news to help them feel plugged into the rest of the world. And, it’s really true that laughter is sometimes the best medicine! Find opportunities to share humor together if appropriate and welcomed by the individual.
- Improve comfort. Make the sterile hospital atmosphere feel a bit more like home by bringing in a favorite pillow or blanket, sweater or robe, a novel they are reading, and their favored personal hygiene products: lip balm, shampoo, lotion, soap, etc. You may also want to bring a family photo or other memento to place on the nightstand. Be sure that you leave anything of value at home.
- Make post-hospitalization preparations. The right time to make a plan for discharge from the hospital is while the person is still hospitalized – or ideally, even before a planned hospital stay. There are certain steps to take to be sure the home will be ready for their return. An in-home care provider should be a key element of an individual’s post-hospitalization plan, to help prevent a rehospitalization and to make sure the person is able to comfortably recover.
- Grocery shopping to make sure there are plenty of healthy foods in the home
- Cooking meals in accordance with any prescribed nutritional plan
- Providing medication reminders and picking up prescriptions
- Watching for changes in condition and reporting them immediately
- Providing assistance during transfers and walking to reduce the possibility of a fall
- And much more