Aging Parent Hospitalizations – Family Caregiving Tips

Our family has experienced two types of aging parent hospitalizations, and we handled each in a slightly different way. For surgeries a or medical procedures that required a hospitals stay, we monitored the situation one way, but if our parent was hospitalized overnight for dehydration or observation, we focused on different things. Our aim, in either situation, was to learn as much as we could from the various hospital staff members, serve as advocates for our parent, and seek information without intentionally aggravating people.

Staying close and observing carefully was critical because, even in the best of hospitals, problems a geriatric patient can experience unexpected problems. Most hospitals provide an information booklet at check-in, and reading it carefully helps adult children understand the nuts, bolts, and culture of life in the hospital.

When our parent was hospitalized after surgery or a medical procedure we did the following:

  • Arranged to have a family member in the room around-the-clock for the first two nights so a knowledgeable relative was always with our parent.
  • Confirmed with nurses whether the in-hospital physician was a hospitalist, specialist, or primary care physician (or some combination) and the approximate time they make morning visits.
  • Figured out a family rotation schedule so that each family member had six or so hours to sleep at home.
  • Wiped down the sides of the bed and the portable table with the hospital-provided disinfectant wipes several times each day.
  • Monitored hand-washing and washed our own hands at least once an hour.
  • Kept bottled water, healthy foods, snacks, and fruit for ourselves nearby.
  • Carried our parent’s medical information file back and forth to the hospital (that included doctor’s phone numbers, parent medications, and other important documents). When meds were delivered we politely asked the nurse to identify them. At least twice we discovered an inappropriate medication had been substituted for one that our parent took regularly (We politely asked the nurse to double-check the meds with the doctor.). The family member spending time in the hospital with our parent had possession of the file.
  • Asked, “Why?” when additional procedures are unexpectedly scheduled.
  • Identified the nurse/patient advocate/manager for the floor in case we needed a consultation.

When our parent was hospitalized for dehydration or for some type of overnight observation (usually after a trip to the emergency room) we felt that a bit less monitoring was required, but we still did the following:

  • Stayed in the emergency room and then late enough to get our parent settled in the room.
  • Wiped down the sides of the bed and the portable table as soon as our parent moved into the room.
  • Confirmed with nurses whether the physician will be a hospitalist, specialist, or primary care physician and the approximate time they make morning visits.
  • Returned to the hospital early, usually before 7:00 A.M.
  • Kept an eye on hand washing.
  • Carried our parent’s medical information file back and forth to the hospital (that included doctor’s phone numbers, parent medications, and other important documents). When meds were delivered we politely asked the nurse to identify them. The family member spending time in the hospital with our parent had possession of the file.
  • Kept a bag of bottled water, healthy foods, snacks, and fruit for ourselves and, if allowed, our hospitalized family member.
  • Identified the nurse/patient advocate/manager for the floor in case we needed a consultation.

For any hospitalization an adult child needs to do the following:

  • Bring plenty of reading materials.
  • Check out the room for comfortable spots to sit and lie down. Don’t hesitate to ask for a more comfortable chair.
  • Request extra blankets, because it can get cool in the hospital at night. I usually bring my own pillow, clearly labeled with my name (and then clean it when I get home)
  • Find out what possibilities are available for wireless world-wide-web access. We rate hospitals that provide this free-of-charge access highly because they provide a service that enables everyone to stay connected to the world without “nickel and diming” patient families. Moreover, because we are missing work we can use the service to stay in touch with the office without another charge. Shame on those hospitals that charge.

One thought on “Aging Parent Hospitalizations – Family Caregiving Tips

  1. Pingback: The Good Caregiver: Rules of the Road for Adult Children « As Our Parents Age

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s