Dementia and Alzheimer's Series #4: Hospital Stays

The following great set of guidelines comes from the Alzheimer’s Aid Society of Northern California.  We thank them sincerely for all of the support they provide to Alzheimer’s patients and their families and friends.

Almost everyone who has ever had the experience of being a patient in a hospital knows that it can be frightening. It is even scarier for persons with dementia.  Unfamiliar surroundings, food, and caretakers can be devastating
when one is confused and disoriented. Confusion and disorientation affect how quickly and how well a patient recovers.  Providing useful techniques for staff and family visitors can mitigate resulting problems such as anxiety and wandering.  Some suggestions include: 

  • Have a caregiver advocate on behalf of the patient. If possible, a family member should remain with the patient at all times. This person can help distract and soothe the patient during medical procedures.
  • Use non-verbal techniques and simple language to communicate. Gestures, facial expressions, pictures, and signs are all examples of non-verbal communication. These can be used when cuing the patient to eat or bathe.
  • Have a list of patient’s likes and dislikes. Favorite items can provide comfort and distraction. Knowledge of dislikes can help the staff avoid negative reactions and minimize anxiety.
  • Studies have shown that the use of restraints tends to increase injuries and causes distress for the patient.  Other methods that can keep the patient safe are distraction, soothing touch, music, or prayer.
  • Be sure the patient is not over or under-stimulated.  Patients with dementia have more difficulty communicating when over-stimulated by television or multiple conversations. Conversely, insufficient stimulation may increase anxiety. 
  • Be aware of changes that may be occurring in the patient. Some patients won’t express pain or other feelings. Note any physical or mood changes which may indicate a complication or new illness.
  • Allow the patient to make as many decisions as he or she can. Guided choices providing some control can limit distress.

Best wishes,

Carol Kinsel, Senior Care Solutions

Bert Cave, Support For Home


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