A trip to the hospital with a person who has memory loss or dementia can be stressful for both of you.
Relieve some of that stress by planning for planned and unplanned hospital visits.
Preparation is key to making an unexpected or planned trip to the hospital easier for you and your care partner. Discuss hospitalization before it happens and as dementia or associated memory loss progresses. Hospice may be a better and more appropriate alternative.
Know whom you can depend on. You need a family member or trusted friend to stay with your care partner when he or she is admitted to the emergency room or hospital. Arrange to have at least two dependable family members, neighbors, or friends you can call on to go with you or meet you at the hospital at a moment’s notice so that one person can take care of the paperwork and the other can stay with your care partner.
Pack an Emergency Bag containing items for an extended stay in the hospital. The bag should have important documents and a personal information sheet that includes a list of medicines, allergies, degree of impairment and behavior of concern.
By taking these steps in advance, you can reduce the stress and confusion that often accompanies a hospital visit, particularly if the visit is an unplanned trip to the emergency room.
Anyone who may have to go to the hospital on short notice should have a checklist and a bag ready to go.
This is especially important for those with memory loss or those caring for them to make the trip less stressful and more productive.
To be prepared, pack these items in a bag that can be easily located.
Personal information sheet
Create a document that includes the following information for the person going to the hospital:
- Preferred name and language (some people may revert to native languages in late stage Alzheimer’s disease)
- Contact information for doctors, key family members, minister, and helpful friends (also program this information into a cell phone, if applicable)
- Illness or medical conditions
- All current medicines and dosage instructions; update whenever there is a change
- Any medicines that have ever caused a bad reaction
- Any allergies to medicines or foods; special diets
- Need for glasses, dentures, or hearing aid
- Degree of impairment and amount of assistance needed for activities
- Family information, living situation, major life events
- Work, leisure and spiritual history
- Daily schedule and patterns, self-care preferences
- Favorite foods and music; touch and visual resources
- Behaviors of concern; how the patient communicates needs and expresses emotions
Include copies of important documents such as:
- Insurance cards (include policy numbers and pre-authorization phone numbers)
- Medicaid and/or Medicare cards
- Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Power of Attorney, Living Will and/or an original DNR (do not resuscitate) order
Patient clothing and supplies
- A change of clothing, toiletries, and personal medications
- Extra adult briefs (e.g., Depends), if usually worn. These may not be available in the emergency room if needed
- Moist hand wipes such as Wet Ones. Plastic bags for soiled clothing and/or adult briefs
- Reassuring or comforting objects
- An iPod, MP3 or CD player; earphones or speakers
- A change of clothing, toiletries and personal medications
- Pain medicine such as Advil, Tylenol, or aspirin. A trip to the emergency room may take longer than you think. Stress can lead to a headache or other symptoms.
- A pad of paper and pen to write down information and directions given to you by hospital staff.
- A sealed snack such as a pack of crackers and a bottle of water or juice for you and the patient. You may have to wait for quite awhile.
- A small amount of cash
- Put a note on the outside of the emergency bag to take a cell phone with you
- Keep a log on your care partner’s symptoms and problems. You may be asked the same questions by many people. Show them what you have written instead of repeating your answers.