Whether a loved one is in the hospital for a planned procedure or an unexpected medical crisis, you might be left feeling vulnerable and helpless. You are fully trusting the trained medical experts to fulfill all your loved one’s needs during their hospital stay and to know precisely what to do to keep them feeling comfortable. Yet as a family caregiver, you actually have an important role to play: as your loved one’s advocate.
Before the need arises, it’s a great idea to have a strategy in place for ways to advocate for a senior loved one. These guidelines can help.
How to Be an Advocate for a Loved One in the Hospital
- Monitor for hospital-induced delirium. This is an alarmingly prevalent condition that can occur for many different reasons. In some instances, narcotics and anti-anxiety meds trigger delirium. Another potential cause is lack of sleep due to the noises, ongoing monitoring, and bright lights during the night. To help, keep the door closed as much as possible to minimize noise from the hallway and ask for the lights to be dimmed as low as possible at nighttime. Visit the person regularly to watch for signs and symptoms of delirium. Your presence will provide a familiar face to help ground them while in unfamiliar surroundings.
- Offer interesting activities. Create a welcome diversion from the stress of being in the hospital by watching a movie together, staying with them during mealtimes, reading a book aloud, or playing quiet music they enjoy. Keep them updated on family news to help them feel connected to the rest of the 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.
- Improve comfort. Make the sterile hospital setting feel a bit more like home by bringing in a well-loved blanket or pillow, a robe or sweater, a novel they’ve been reading, and their preferred personal hygiene products: lip balm, shampoo, lotion, soap, etc. You may also want to bring a family photo or other memento to put on the nightstand. Be sure to leave anything of value at home.
- Make post-hospitalization preparations. The right time to prepare for discharge from the hospital is while the person is still hospitalized – or preferably, even before a planned hospital stay. There are certain actions to take to ensure the home will be ready for their homecoming. An in-home caregiver should be an integral part of an individual’s post-hospitalization strategy, in order to protect against a rehospitalization and to ensure that the person is able to comfortably recover.
- Grocery shopping to make certain there are plenty of healthy foods in the home
- Providing medication reminders and picking up prescriptions
- Monitoring for changes in condition and reporting them right away
- Providing support during walking and transfers to lessen the possibility of a fall
- And much more