Whether an older loved one is in the hospital for a planned procedure or an unplanned medical emergency, you might be left feeling vulnerable and helpless. You are fully trusting the trained medical professionals to meet 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, you have a crucial role to play: as an advocate for your loved one.
Prior to a need arising, it is a smart idea to have a plan in place for how to best provide the advocacy and support the person will need. These senior advocacy tips can help.
How to Be an Advocate for a Loved One in the Hospital
- Monitor for hospital-induced delirium. This is a surprisingly prevalent condition that can develop for a number of different reasons. In certain instances, treatments such as anti-anxiety medications and narcotics induce delirium. Another possible culprit is lack of sleep from the noises, ongoing monitoring, and bright lights throughout the night. To help, keep the door closed whenever possible to limit hallway noise and ask for the lights to be turned down as low as possible at 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 unfamiliar surroundings.
- Offer engaging activities. Provide 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 connected to the rest of the world. And, it’s really true that laughter can be the best medicine! Find chances to share a laugh together if appropriate and welcomed by the individual.
- Optimize comfort. Make the sterile hospital atmosphere feel a tad 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: shampoo, soap, lotion, lip balm, etc. You might also want to bring a family photo or other memento to place on the nightstand. Just be sure to leave anything of value at home.
- Make post-hospitalization preparations. The ideal time to plan for discharge from the hospital is while the person is still hospitalized – or preferably, even before a planned hospital stay. There are certain steps to take to guarantee the home will be prepared for their homecoming. An in-home care provider should be an integral element of an individual’s post-hospitalization plan, in order to prevent a rehospitalization and to make sure the person recovers comfortably.
- Grocery shopping to make certain there are plenty of healthy foods in the home
- Making meals in accordance with any prescribed nutritional plan
- Picking up prescriptions and providing medication reminders
- Monitoring for changes in condition and reporting them immediately
- Providing support during transfers and walking to lessen the risk of a fall
- And much more