Hospital stays are often a fact of life for seniors — but that doesn’t make them any more pleasant or easy to deal with.
For seniors, a stay in the hospital or in an outpatient facility, such as a rehab or surgical center, can be disorienting and tiresome. For older adults, it can be frightening to feel like they’re all alone in an unfamiliar place. At the same time, going into a hospital often means undergoing surgery, changing up their medications, or starting on a new treatment regimen, which can all leave elderly adults feeling vulnerable or uncertain about the future.
For family caregivers with a loved one in the hospital, the experience is not much easier.
It can be intimidating and scary to think about your loved one having to spend their time in a strange facility. Meanwhile, it often falls to loving family caregivers to handle the logistical side of things — including coordinating their senior loved one’s care, communicating with doctors, gathering paperwork, and planning for all that goes into admission and discharge.
This can be an emotional and trying time. It’s important to remember to think about what you can do to bring comfort, joy, and peace to your senior loved ones while they’re in the hospital — while also protecting your own health and peace of mind as a family caregiver.
Looking for some inspiration? Curious about how you can make things easier and more comfortable for the senior patient in your life?
Here are some easy, powerful ways that family caregivers can help seniors to feel supported, think positively, and enjoy the comforts of home during a stay in a hospital or rehab facility:
Bring the Essentials
For seniors settling in for a long hospitalization, comfort and contentment start with the little things. As you get your loved one ready for their time away from home, don’t forget to pack the daily essentials they need to keep up with their routines. Depending on your loved one’s preferences and circumstances, this might include:
- Several changes of clothes, including comfy underwear and socks
- Eye mask and earplugs, to make sleeping easier
- Face wash, soap, and other bathing essentials
- Eyeglasses, along with accessories like eyeglass cases and wipes
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Hearing aids and extra batteries
- Hair brush and comb
- Skin creams, lotions, and lip balms
- Important documents and paperwork, organized in a folder for easy access (including insurance information, advanced directives and estate planning documents, a contact list for family and friends, medication lists, and so on)
While the hospital may provide some of these items, your loved one may feel more comfortable and confident if they are able to bring some familiar products with them. Be sure to ask the hospital or treatment center about any restrictions on what your loved one can keep with them in their room.
Provide a Personal Touch
In addition to grooming and hygiene essentials, think about what you can offer to your senior loved one to help brighten up their day, create a sense of home, or give them something fun to focus on. Think about small decor and bedding items that won’t take up too much space, such as:
- A framed photo of the senior’s family or pets
- A comforting, light blanket, such as a fleece or flannel throw
- A comfy pillow from home, or one with an encouraging message of support
- Flowers in a pretty container
- A stuffed animal to hug and hold
- Light snacks and drinks, including some of your senior’s favorites to give them a break from hospital food
Be sure to consult with your loved one’s doctors and hospital staff before making any big changes to their space. Be respectful of any limits set by nurses or other healthcare providers.
Offer Fun Things to Do
Staying in a hospital can alternate between being slow and dull, and incredibly stressful. When the pendulum swings in either direction, your loved one may benefit from having something to do to stay occupied. Help your loved one keep their mind sharp and their hands busy by bringing by some accessible activities, such as:
- Crossword and sudoku puzzles
- Easy-to-transport board games, like a travel chess or checkers set
- Adult coloring books and colored pencils
- Magazines and books
- A notepad and pencil for writing down thoughts and questions
- A tablet or phone preloaded with music, podcasts, or movies
Be Flexible and Respect the Senior’s Needs
Remember that a hospital stay can be challenging, stressful, and frightening. Your loved one may feel weak or tired as they recover from a procedure, or disoriented due to spending so much time in a bustling new environment. Try to be as flexible, patient, and accommodating as possible.
- Be ready to sit in silence when your loved one does not want to talk.
- Recognize when they need a break, and be ready to let them sleep
- Be understanding if the senior is nervous, tired, or frustrated, and try not to argue or talk down to them
- Give them privacy when they need to dress, change their bandages, or consult with a nurse
- Keep family visits short, if necessary
- Give notice when you or another family member is visiting, so your loved one can prepare emotionally and physically
- Help out where you can. If requested, offer a hand with closing the blinds, helping your loved one figure out the settings on their TV, or adjusting the thermostat.
It can get lonely in a hospital. Getting the chance to spend time with friends and loved ones can light up a senior’s day, giving them something to enjoy and look forward to. As a family caregiver, try to simply be present as often as possible to:
- Play games
- Share meals
- Sit quietly together
- Work on fun activities
- Offer support with moving around, dressing, grooming, and hygiene
For those times when you can’t be there, a professional senior companion can step in and help! An experienced professional caregiver or companion can provide personalized attention and support for your loved one while they rest in the hospital or an outpatient facility. In addition to helping with routine activities of daily living (ADLs) — such as bathing, dressing, and moving around the facility — a companion can offer true friendship to the senior, sharing conversation, games, and meals to help your loved one feel right at home.
Don’t Forget to Care for Yourself
As a caregiver, be sure to make time for your own needs. Remember, your loved one almost certainly wants you to be rested and healthy — not worn down and stressed! Carve out time to take breaks, get some sleep, exercise, drink water, and eat nutritious meals.
Don’t be afraid to reach out for help! A professional caregiver can take some of the responsibility of daily care off of your plate, so you can focus on other important things, whether that means getting your loved one’s home ready for their return or taking care of financial matters on their behalf. A companion can also help carry some of the load as your loved one transitions back home after their hospital stay, when they may require additional care and supervision above what you can provide on your own.
Looking for Help Caring for Your Family In a Difficult Time?
Do you think your loved one could benefit from the attention and companionship that a professional caregiver can provide? Do you have any more questions, or want to discuss what may be the best course of action for you and your senior loved one as they get ready for a stay in the hospital? Companions for Seniors would be happy to help!
At Companions for Seniors, our companions are trained and bonded, and can help your family shoulder some of the responsibilities of caring for an aging loved one. We are locally owned and operated in Chicago, with clients in the city and suburbs.
We help provide seniors with a higher quality of life, while also offering respite and peace of mind for a family caregiver who might need some support. Our companions help stimulate our clients physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, empowering them to live an active and enriched lifestyle in the comfort of their own homes — or in hospitals and treatment centers, when necessary. Our companions can provide a variety of services designed to help your loved one live more independently, including:
- Driving services
- Preparing and serving meals
- Light housekeeping
- Laundry help
- Assistance with bathing, grooming, and dressing
- Social support and friendship
Have any questions about Companions for Seniors? Want to get in touch? Don’t hesitate to give us a call at 866-910-9020, or fill out our online contact form, available here.