How to Prepare for Hospitalization During Coronavirus Pandemic
Tips on Minimizing Disruptions for Individuals Living with Alzheimer’s from the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America
(April 22, 2020)— Care transitions, moving a person from one setting, such as an assisted living facility to a hospital, are often difficult for individuals living with Alzheimer’s and may be especially challenging during the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and social isolation. The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) is providing families affected by Alzheimer’s with tips to keep in mind in case their loved one needs to be hospitalized.
“Primary caregivers should be aware that the additional restrictions in place during the COVID-19 pandemic may require that their loved one be cared for without their regular in-person guidance,” says Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., AFA’s President & CEO. “This can be disruptive and anxiety-producing for a person living with Alzheimer’s under normal circumstances, but even more so now. A few preparations that involve taking control of the things within your power can help ease these transitions and ensure that the person remains as safe as possible.”
Prior to a hospital admission, AFA recommends the following:
- Be aware of protocol policy changes during this time. For instance, it is likely that caregivers will not be permitted to enter the hospital with their loved one. Some facilities are becoming COVID-19-only locations as well. You may be directed to go to a different location than you would normally expect. It is important that caregivers connect with the person’s doctor in advance about any special preparations.
- Create a “go kit” that includes personal, legal, medical, and daily living documentation and items. Make sure that you provide it to the facility and keep copies of the documentation for yourself.
- Legal documentation should include:
- Healthcare agent/proxy (the person designated to make medical decisions on their behalf)
- Power of attorney (the person responsible for their financial decisions)
- Advance directives (medical wishes, such as a “Do Not Resuscitate”)
- Personal ID (you may want to consider attaching ID to your person)
- Medication lists: What meds they are currently taking, with dosage.
- Physical reminders: Does the person have physical limitations, hearing or eyesight problems? Have food preferences that could be important?
- Legal documentation should include:
- Communicate with the care staff: Sharing personal details about your loved one’s behaviors and preferences with the care staff can help them ease the transition. For example, let them know that the person is sensitive to water, has difficulty sleeping or gets easily agitated. Ask whether things such as photos, personal care products and favorite items are allowed, as they can make a new space feel more familiar and comfortable. “Hospital personnel are often willing to facilitate communication,” says Allison B. Reiss M.D., an AFA Medical, Scientific and Memory Screening Advisory Board Member and Associate Professor at NYU Long Island School of Medicine. “Staff members may help your loved one to speak with you using a video application. Seeing a familiar face can bring comfort and reassurance and relieve the isolation that is a major problem during hospitalization.
- Be an advocate: It is more important than ever that a caregiver be a strong advocate for their family member. For example, if your loved one has COVID-19 or is possibly exposed to it, they may have special restrictions placed on them (for instance, they may not be able to return to their long-term care facility after a hospitalization). If this is the case, caregivers may need to secure the assistance of a local ombudsman in their state.
- For additional regional support, AFA recommends that caregivers reach out to the Eldercare Locator, a nationwide public service of the Administration on Aging (AoA); it connects older Americans and their caregivers with trustworthy local support resources.
- Reach out: If you have additional questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to call AFA’s Helpline (866-232-8484), available 7 days a week (9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., ET, weekdays; 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., ET, weekends). You can also connect through AFA’s website, www.alzfdn.org, for an online chat (click on the blue and white icon in the lower, right-hand corner). The Helpline is staffed entirely by licensed social workers, specially trained in understanding how to help people who have a dementia and their caregivers.