The difficulties of hospital admission for people with dementia

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For a person with dementia hospital is particularly hard. Families find dementia gets much worse after. Research shows that some of that can be avoided.

Some of these ideas for when they are in hospital may help.

  1. Avoid it!  Sometimes when people are admitted for assessment not a lot happens.  See if you can get treatment at a day hospital
  2. Take care in the emergency department.  It is noisy and disturbing things happen.  For a person with dementia, it is best if humanly possible to stay with them.
  3. Take control of the space. It makes it familiar for the person and staff seeing lots of photos and personal things gives them something to talk about.  It seems to make a difference.
  4. Food is vital for getting better but research indicates that patients with dementia in hospital do not get enough to eat or drink. Encourage them and bring in favourite treats. Check with staff.
  5. Medication and pain control is serious.  Hospitals sometimes give the wrong medication or leave it in pots near the patient. You can take control of that as you would at home.
  6. The method used to stop wandering can cause problems.  It includes medication and at times physical restraint.  Always question, and see if you can help by supporting walking about, or distraction.
  7. Delirium is reversible but patients sometimes get it because they don’t have enough water.  Do what you can to help that.  Avoid urine catheters if possible.
  8. Bed moves are confusing.  See if you can get them to avoid moving your loved one for their own convenience.  It will only cause trouble for them and the patient.
  9. What to do when visiting.  Be aware that visiting times are only for guidance.  You can make a real case for visiting when it suits you, for example to feed your dad in your own lunch break.  Open visiting is the idea situation.
  10. Going home – start planning for this right from the start and make sure that they are doing that as well.  Too often staff “assume” your loved one is “a care home case” on zero evidence.

There is more information on this subject in Dementia, the One Stop Guide.