Hospitalization is a uniquely stressful experience for people with dementia, and also for their family caregivers. Sick and often in pain, people with dementia are taken away from their usual surroundings and routine and abruptly thrust into an environment that is filled with unfamiliar people and strange places, sounds, and smells. They are moved frequently: from waiting rooms to triage to the emergency department, on to various testing rooms and hallways and hospital floors. To the cognitively intact person, this can be disorienting. To the person who has dementia due to Alzheimer's, stroke, or any other condition, this can be catastrophic in terms of orientation, speech, comprehension, and recovery.
In response, some hospitals have walking or activity programs for dementia patients, or dedicated geriatric emergency departments. Fortunately, there is no need to wait for a comprehensive project to lead improved care for people with dementia.
Most people with dementia have a family caregiver. This caregiver may not define the role as "caregiving," and may not seem to provide all the support that the patient appears to require. It may take a little investigation to find the family caregiver. However, identifying those family caregivers and partnering with them can reduce stress all around - for the patient, for the caregiver, and for you as the health care professional. This guide gives specific suggestions.
In addition, we have videos from Jed Levine (executive vice president and director of Programs and Services, Alzheimer's Association - NYC Chapter) and Dr. Jeffrey Nichols (senior vice president for clinical effectiveness, Continuing Care Division, Catholic Health Services of Long Island) on working together with family caregivers of people with dementia, distinguishing dementia from delirium, and conducting a history and physical with a person with dementia, and more.