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Last Updated 5/12/2010 2:30:10 PM

Senior services in the hospitalHospitalization can occur as a planned visit or as a result of an admission through the emergency department. Many patients become confused when they are in the hospital, particularly if they are admitted unexpectedly as a result of an emergency or a sudden illness.

Often patients are less confused when family members or caregivers stay with them, help explain what is going on and offer reassureance. Family members can also inform staff about such concerns as hearing and vision limitations, language or communication issues, medications, and any other considerations that would help staff provide the best care for the patient.

If your family member has memory impairment, a hospital stay can be especially stressful. If possible, prepare him/her in advance of the hospitalization. When in the hospital, there will be unfamiliar places, people, and routines that might make someone with memory loss more confused. It is helpful to have a family member or caregiver stay with the patient as much as possible. He/she may need extra help with eating and personal care activities, and may not be able to use the call button for assistance. Some suggestions for minimizing confusion and stress for patients with memory loss include:

  • Pack comfort items such as favorite blankets or photos.
  • Talk in a calm voice and offer reassurance and a comforting touch.
  • Turn off the television to minimize background noise and prevent overstimulation.
  • Engage in familiar, calming activities such as reading, praying or reminiscing.

Family members can also inform staff of any concerns such as past falls, wandering or delusional behavior as well as any non-verbal signs of pain or discomfort that your family member may express.

If your family member becomes suddenly more confused or seems different, inform staff as they might not recognize the difference in your patient's condition. Explain his/her usual behavior and how this is different. Staff can then assess for delirium, a temporary, reversible condition often caused by physical illness, and provide appropriate and timely treatment.


Hospitalization Happens: A Guide to Hospital Visits for Individuals with Memory Loss by the National Institute on Aging

Speak Up: Help Prevent Errors in Your Care by The Joint Commission

Next Step in Care: Hospital Admission (In English, Spanish, Russian or Chinese) by United Hospital Fund