Whether a loved one is hospitalized for a planned procedure or an unexpected medical crisis, you may be left feeling vulnerable and helpless. You’re fully trusting the trained medical experts to fulfill all of your loved one’s needs during their hospital stay and to know just what to do to keep them feeling comfortable. Yet as a family caregiver, you actually have a vital role to play: as an advocate for your loved one.
Prior to a need arising, it’s a good idea to have a plan in place for how to advocate for a senior and offer the necessary support during and after a hospital stay. These suggestions can help.
How to Advocate for a Loved One in the Hospital
- Watch for hospital-induced delirium. This is a surprisingly prevalent condition that can occur for a number of different reasons. In certain instances, treatments such as anti-anxiety medications and narcotics trigger delirium. Another potential cause is lack of sleep due to the ongoing monitoring, bright lights, and noises during the night. To help, keep the door closed whenever possible to minimize noise from the hallway and ask for the lights to be dimmed as low as possible during the night. Visit the person whenever you can to check for signs and symptoms of delirium. Your presence will provide a familiar face to help ground them while in strange surroundings.
- Offer engaging activities. Create a welcome distraction from the distress 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 connected to the outside world. And it’s really true that laughter is oftentimes the best medicine! Find opportunities to share a laugh together if appropriate and welcomed by the individual.
- Enhance comfort. Make the sterile hospital atmosphere feel a bit more like home by bringing in a favorite blanket or pillow, a robe or sweater, a book they’ve been reading, and their preferred personal hygiene products: shampoo, soap, lotion, lip balm, etc. You can also want to bring a family photo or other memento to set up on the nightstand. Be sure to leave anything of value at home.
- Make post-hospitalization preparations. The best time to 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 guarantee the home will be prepared for their return. An in-home care provider should be a key aspect of a person’s post-hospitalization plan, to help prevent a rehospitalization and to ensure that the individual is able to comfortably recover.
- Trips to the grocery store 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 support during transfers and walking to reduce the risk of a fall
- And much more