How to help an elderly relative through a hospital stay

How to help an elderly relative through a hospital stay

Help your loved one and hospital staff with the following tips from

  1. Take any medication your relative is taking into the hospital, so the doctors and nurses know what they are currently using and can be aware of how any further drugs might affect the current ones, or assess whether their current medication is correct.
  2. Let the medical staff know of any general allergies to drugs or food or of any known reactions to anaesthetic.
  3. Inform the nursing staff of religious preferences and dietary requirements, if relevant.
  4. Let the medical staff know about any existing medical issues your relative may have, or any relevant past medical issues.
  5. Make the staff aware of any mobility or incontinence issues, so they are aware that extra help might be needed.
  6. Let the medical staff know if your older relative ever gets confused or disorientated.
  7. Make sure the hospital has your contact details and those of other family members if relevant. It is best to provide one main point of contact for the hospital, as they are very busy and it can be difficult if many relatives ring up regularly for updates.
  8. Let the medical staff know if your relative has signed a ‘do not resuscitate’ order (DNR), in case of emergency.
  9. Find out when visiting is allowed, so you can let friends and family know to avoid them visiting at the wrong time.
  10. If your older relative needs help with meals and drinks, ask to be allowed to be there at mealtimes to help.

“It’s important not to be afraid to ask questions," says Deborah Stone, MD of "Doctors and nurses are busy and usually visiting times do not coincide with ward rounds, but if you are worried or want to keep updated, you can speak to the nurses on the ward in person or by phone and you can ask them to page the relevant doctor.

"That can be particularly important if your relative is about to undergo a procedure: arming yourself with what’s going to happen and the risks involved means you can reassure and keep reassuring your loved one. Going into hospital can be very disorienting and they may very well be confused by what’s going on and forget what they have been told… especially if they have an infection or high temperature, they are living with dementia or they have suffered a shock, such as a fall.

"By remaining in touch with hospital staff throughout the stay will also prove helpful when the time comes for your loved one to return home. “The whole discharge process can be lengthy and confusing,” says Deborah, “as it may involve a number of different agencies." For more information on the discharge process, click here.


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