Sometimes a person with dementia might need to go into hospital for a test, scan, operation or as an emergency because they have had a fall. Visiting hospital can be a disorientating experiencing for someone with dementia and can be stressful for you as their carer.
This page offers tips on what can help and how to make sure the person with dementia gets appropriate treatment from hospital staff.
Tips on preparing for a visit
- Try to book the appointment for a time that suits the person with dementia best
- You might wish not to tell the person with dementia about the appointment until the day itself, to prevent them from getting anxious about it. Alternatively, if the person with dementia needs reassurance that they haven’t missed the appointment, put it on a calendar that is easy to see.
- Bring something to do that will be distracting, such as a photo book, or play some music from your phone
- If the person with dementia is staying overnight in hospital, pack thick socks and extra layers to make sure they’re warm at night. You might also want to pack familiar items such as photographs.
Talking to hospital staff
If the person you care for has troubles communicating their preferences to the staff at the hospital, it’s important for you to set out their preferences, including:
- How they’d like to be addressed
- What their normal daily routine looks like
- What types of daily tasks they need help with
- Any foods or drinks they particularly like or dislike
- What medication they take and when they need to take it
- How best to communicate with them
During their stay
- If the person with dementia is in hospital for an emergency they might need a family member throughout their stay to be able to communicate with staff about their needs
- See if the person with dementia can be placed in a quieter ward or at the end of the ward
- It’s particularly important to be there for mealtimes, where staff could mistake difficulties with eating for not being hungry
- Bring food that is easy to eat, or food which the person with dementia is used to eating
- While it can be reassuring to have family members around, too many at once can be confusing and disruptive. It is better to just have one or two visitors who hospital staff can speak to through the person with dementia’s stay
Coming out of hospital
After a stay in hospital the person with dementia should have a care package arranged to meet their ongoing needs when they get home.
It’s important not to be too unsettled if it seems like someone’s dementia symptoms have got worse since their hospital stay. This is normal after a difficult experience and could also be a result of getting out of practice with looking after themselves. This is something that most people who have stayed a while in hospital can attest to! With ongoing support you can help them to regain some of their lost confidence.
Alzheimer’s Society – Preparing for a hospital stay when someone has dementia
Dementia UK – Preparing for a hospital visit