Minimizing Confusion While Your Loved One is Hospitalized

Some older adults experience confusion when they are hospitalized due to the change in environment. Delirium, a temporary confusion can occur to even the completely oriented older adult when they are ill and in a strange environment. Delerium can lead to safety concerns, such as risk for falling since the individual is confused and unable to follow through with instructions that ordinarily he or she could handle.

Here are some things that can be done to reduce the risk of delirium:

1. Bring a complete list of all medications, with their dosages, that your loved one takes to the hospital. It is important to also include all over-the-counter medicines. It may help to bring the medication bottles as well.

2. Prepare a “medical information sheet” listing all allergies, names and phone numbers of physicians, the name of the patient’s usual pharmacy and all known medical conditions. Also, be sure all pertinent medical records have been forwarded to the doctors who will be caring for the patient.

3. Bring glasses, hearing aids (with fresh batteries), and dentures to the hospital. Older persons do better if they can see, hear and eat.

4. Bring in a few familiar objects from home. Things such as family photos, a favorite comforter or blanket for the bed, rosary beads, a beloved book and relaxation tapes can be quite comforting.

5. If your loved one becomes confused while in the hospital, plan to stay as much as possible. During an acute episode of delirium, relatives should try to arrange shifts so someone can be present around the clock. Help orient the patient throughout the day. Speak in a calm, reassuring tone of voice and tell the patient where he is and why he is there. When giving instructions, state one fact or simple task at a time. Do not overwhelm or over stimulate the patient.

6. Massage can be soothing for some patients.

7. If you detect new signs that could indicate delirium — confusion, memory problems, personality changes — it is important to discuss these with the nurses or physicians as soon as you can. Family members are often the first to notice subtle changes.

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