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Blog Feature

By: Marissa Salvesen on June 17th, 2014

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Stress-Free Hospital Stays for Seniors: Tips and Techniques for Caregivers

assisted living | Aging & Caregiving

tips-for-hospital-visitWhile a hospital stay is unlikely to make anyone’s list of favorite things, it can be particularly stressful for older adults.

Follow these tips to help ease stress while ensuring the very best care during your aging loved one’s next hospital visit.

Preparation Matters

While some hospital stays are scheduled in advance and others are unexpected, the imperative is the same: begin preparations as quickly as possible to promote optimal outcomes. The sooner your loved one knows what to expect during this transition time, the more prepared he or she will feel.

Attending to critical details in advance -- such as transportation, home care and other needs -- not only promotes a smooth transition, but can also help ameliorate emotional distress. Early communication about these details frees seniors to stop worrying and instead focus on getting well. 

Some hospitals offer rooming-in programs for family members. This not only helps alleviate patient anxiety, but also lets caregivers participate more actively throughout the recovery period. Determine whether this option is available in advance, and whether it works for your family’s needs.

Packing & Planning

No one loves packing, but doing so ensures that all essentials will be available during a hospital stay. While it is recommended that valuables be left at home, plenty of other items can help make the stay more tolerable. Eyeglasses, hearing aids, comfortable clothing, safe shoes or slippers, and a robe are practical necessities, while books, magazines, or puzzles keep the mind stimulated and entertained. For better rest, light sleepers may also benefit from earplugs and sleep masks.

It is also helpful to pack a notebook, which allows caregivers and patients to keep track of questions and explanations as they arise.  Lastly, don't forget the "little things”! A favorite lipstick or a pair of warm socks; seemingly small touches of something familiar, can go a long way.

Packing a bag with necessities for an unexpected hospital stay can be especially helpful in emergencies. Even if your loved one is healthy and doing well, in the event of a serious fall or critical health change, a hospital stay can take your loved one by surprise. Family members can help alleviate stress by preparing a few items in advance that can be a lifesaver in a time of crisis.

Paperwork Pressure

Keeping track of paperwork can be extremely overwhelming, particularly as medical needs increase with age. Maintain a file folder with copies of everything from insurance cards (front and back) and picture identification cards to important legal documents, such as living wills and advanced directives. This folder should also include a dated record of all hospitalizations and surgeries, as well as a list of allergies, sensitivities and dietary needs. In addition, be sure to keep copies of a listing of all prescriptions and over-the-counter medications -- including vitamins and supplements -- citing dosages, schedules and frequencies.

A brief medical history for all immediate family members can be very helpful. Easy and immediate access to this comprehensive information leads to more informed healthcare professionals.

According to the Merck Manual, nearly half of adults who occupy hospital beds are 65 or older, and this number is only expected to increase with the aging population. While hospital stays are sometimes unavoidable, following these tips not only relieves stress, but also yields better care for your aging loved one.

Key Takeaways:

  • Begin preparing as soon as you know about the hospital stay to promote optimal outcomes.
  • Pack a bag that includes a balance of necessities and amenities for both convenience and comfort.
  • Maintain a current file folder containing all information needed during a hospital stay.
  • While a hospital stay is never easy, stress is relieved by advance planning and open lines of communication.

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About Marissa Salvesen

My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!

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