Senior Loved One in the Hospital? How to Make It Easier on Them — and You

Hospitals aren’t on our list of favorite places to visit — and we really don’t want to have to go there as a patient. However…

Most of us have had a loved one visit a hospital for either an elective operation or an emergency. Often times as our senior loved ones get older, they seem to be in the hospital more frequently throughout the course of a year and for more days each visit.

Recently I had a loved one in the hospital. There were many concerns as you might expect such as how would surgery progress whether our senior loved ones will want to eat or have food available that will stimulate their appetite. But we also have to eat while we sit and wait hour after hour, day after day.

Hospital Tips to Ease Everyone’s Caregiving Experience

As with other aspects of caregiving, hospital trips for our loved ones require stamina and planning. We have put together a list of a few things that you might find helpful as reminders to make your senior’s next hospital stay more comfortable for them — and for you too!

  • Wash your hands when you visit, before and after being in your senior loved one’s room.
  • Talk quietly so you don’t disturb other people or say things other people don’t want to hear, including personal medical issues or private information. We can hear you talking on your cell phone to your relatives from the other room. Other people may also wish to nap and you may be keeping them awake.
  • Don’t talk with doctors or other healthcare workers about your loved one’s private medical condition in the hallway, elevator or cafeteria where others can overhear you. As much as they want you to know, they want to wait and tell you in a private setting.
  • Don’t bring 10-15 relatives and friends into waiting rooms designed for 2-3 family members per patient so that others have no place to sit while they wait. Be considerate of others who are using the facility and are worried about their own loved one. Take turns coming or designate a spokesperson to get updates to pass to the rest of the family. If you must all come, wait in alternate areas such as the lobby or cafeteria to avoid filling up smaller surgery waiting rooms or other procedure areas.
  • Be prepared to eat in the cafeteria or find a nearby restaurant, as you may be there for longer than expected and need to replenish yourself. The hospital cafeteria is probably good but even the best ones can get tiresome after several days.
  • Bring snacks or items to relieve boredom for the senior loved one you are visiting or you while you wait.
  • Bring going home clothes, including a light jacket, to your senior loved one. Don’t forget to bring shoes and undergarments, since they may not have those with them. Take home items every day that are not needed to save you from having a haul on the day of discharge.
  • Be sure they have any needed glasses and dentures, as well as a place for safekeeping when they aren’t in use. They will need teeth to eat the meals served and glasses to read the literature given to them by the staff.
  • Scope out the location of drink machines so that you can stay hydrated during your visits. Be sure to have some change or small bills to feed the machine.
  • Check with the staff for wireless (WiFi) service so you can connect with family and keep the updates flowing as well as keep yourself from being bored or missing an important communication.
  • Be sure you know how to call your senior loved one directly or call out from their phone. Does your senior loved one have your phone number written down to call if they want to or will they have to rely on their memory?
  • Ask pertinent questions so you are prepared to help your senior loved one after they are discharged. Be informed about medications before hospitalization so you know what might have changed to guide your senior later.
  • Bring cards and well wishes in to your senior loved one that may have been delivered to their home so that it will cheer them up during their stay, don’t keep them at home in a pile for later. They might need a few well wishes to improve their outlook and speed their recovery.

These are just a few ideas to help make your experience in the hospital better and also that of your senior loved one. When you can do some small things to help them feel better it will benefit you as a caregiver in the long run.

Do you have any other suggestions to add to the list?