Helping A Hospitalized Senior Citizen Means Being Prepared
Author note: This article was penned in 2010 so it’s in the first person.
It’s a sad fact that, if you’re a caregiver or have a senior citizen you love dearly, you’re going to have to one day probably help a hospitalized senior citizen. Being prepared is the name of the game and I should know…
My name is Lori, and I am my 94-year-old Mom’s full-time caregiver. This job means that I’m there through thick and thin, through laughter and tears, and through, sigh, hospitalizations.
I’ve spent enough time in a nalgahyde hospital recliner to have figured out some tips to help a hospitalized senior citizen. The below article was written in the hopes that others can learn through my experiences.
Note: I’ve had more than one doctor tell me to never leave a senior citizen in the hospital overnight alone. I have many times witnessed the care my Mom gets when I’m sitting next to her versus the beeping monitor of the patient in the other bed.
Update: My darling Mom died in my arms Feb 15, 2012. We had 5 wonderful years together. I’m forever grateful for her for being such an easy person to care for and, right up to the end, taught me about life…and death…
Have Your Senior Citizen Friend’s Medical History With You
For some reason which totally escapes me, it seems like I have to recount the same medical and medication history to three or four separate people during a single hospitalization (don’t these institutions have computers?). And, when one is in a slight panic over the condition of the loved senior citizen, it can become difficult to focus on minutia such as recounting (time and time again) the same information (can you tell I’m bitter?).
Regardless, the below are a few tips I’ve figured out to make recounting a medical history easier and more accurate.
- Create a computer file that chronologically lists the medical history. If possible, include the following items:
- Surgeries. If possible, you’ll want the year of the surgery but, if you don’t have that information, you can estimate it.
- Any and all allergies to medications or foods.
- Family history of diseases. For example, you might be asked to recount your senior’s parent’s history of cancer, liver disease, etc.
- Past diseases such as measles, mumps, etc.
- List of immunizations such as pneumonia vaccine, flu vaccine, tetanus shot, etc.
- If you have recent X-rays, bring them with you!
- Have a current list of medications handy.
- If you have a smartphone, use the “Memo” feature to record all medications. This tip has saved me from forgetting anything and, when someone once again asks what medications my mom is on (and there’s a multitude of the suckers…), I just hand them my phone with the memo titled “Mom’s medications.”
- Some doctors want to know the total dose of medication per day (ex, 50 mg HCTZ) and the dose at each time of day (ex, 25 mg HCTZ morning and night). The total dose is used by doctors to generally check interactions with any new medications they might be prescribing for the senior citizen while the dose per time of day is what they might want to prescribe while your elder is in the hospital.If I’m doing this kind of detailed medical history, I create a spreadsheet with the information and print out multiple copies to hand people.
- If the hospitalization is acute and you don’t have time to prepare a computer file, make sure to grab all medications before you head out the door. You’ll want to get everything your senior citizen friend is taking which is a great reason to keep all meds in a bag in one place in the house.
- Make sure to list vitamins and supplements. Few people understand that vitamins and supplements can (and will) interfere with prescription drugs.
Patient Medical History Books
If you prefer to go the more traditional route, here’s some physical books where you can record your senior citizen’s medical history and prescription drugs. Remember though, a physical book can always be lost so think carefully about the method above (using a computer).
The Patient’s Medical Journal: Record Your Personal Medical History, Your Family Medical History, Your Medical Visits & Treatment PlansPerfect H&P Notebook (Medical History and Physical Exam Notebook)
Get The Best Smartphone: The Samsung Galaxy
I use my Samsung Galaxy S7 memo feature to create all kinds of lists, including my Mom’s medical history. Currently, along with my Mom’s medications, I have lists for wines I’ve found I like, new books to pick up, movies to watch, items to get at local stores such as Walmart and Home Depot, songs I want to download, etc. I positively love my Galaxy.
This phone has it all – everything a caregiver could ever dream of. it will organize you, give you alarms when needed, and even remind you to stand up and walk around every 30 minutes if you want it to.
Bring A Snuggie For Both You and Your Senior Citizen Friend
The Snuggie makes a perfect gift for anybody but is a particularly great gift for someone in the hospital. The large sleeves mean that IV tubes can still be attached, your senior friend can still feed themselves yet stay covered up and warm.
Note: Snuggies should only be used when your senior is in a chair or bed. Immediately remove it when he or she has to get up – tripping danger is huge with the Snuggie!
Napa Soft Microplush Fleece Blanket with Sleeves Adult Snuggie, LatteSnuggie Red Plaid BlanketSnuggie Original Fleece Blanket, BlueSpongebob Squarepants, Being Bob 48-Inch-by-71-Inch Adult sizeNFL Dallas Cowboys Full Body Player Comfy Throw
Have An Overnight Hospital Bag Packed For Your Senior Citizen Loved One
Since senior citizens can suffer adverse health conditions at the drop of a hat, it’s best to be prepared with an overnight bag packed with items to make their hospital stay as pleasant as possible.
The below items are helpful to have already packed. Note: all of these items are sealed so that you can pack a bag months in advance and just grab it and go.
- Baby wipes. No, they’re not just for babies anymore. Baby wipes are a great refresher for a bedridden senior citizen or a caregiver. If you can find larger wipes, those are even better.When Mom was in the hospital the first time, they gave us these large, wonderful disposable washcloths to use – the whole package goes in the microwave for 10 seconds to warm. They’re big enough to make a quick sponge bath a thing of joy.
No Rinse Bathing Wipes (8 count each) – 5 Pack (40 wipes)Disposable Washcloths for Comfort Bath & No Rinse Body Wipes – Aloe Vera best antibacterial body wash + No Rinse Bathing Wash ClothsMedline ULTRASFT1013Z Ultra-Soft Disposable Dry Cleansing Cloth, 10Summer’s Eve Cleansing Cloths, Sheer Floral, 32 Cloths (Pack of 4)
- Toothbrush and toothpaste. Throw in a travel size of mouthwash also. Note: most of the time, the hospital will give your senior citizen a small *courtesy* pack of items which might include the above, but better to be safe than sorry.
- A few pairs of clean underwear or Depends. Although your hospitalized senior citizen may balk at having to wear Depends, they’re very convenient in preventing accidents while bedridden. Note: Never call them diapers!
- Pajamas and a robe. Most hospitals will require your senior friend to don their own horrible hospital gowns, But, if you have pajamas that button down the front, you might be able to sweet talk your way into allowing your senior friend to wear them.
- A bottle of water and/or a few snacks. Always hide these in the bag somewhere and don’t offer them until you find out if your hospitalized senior citizen can have food and water.
- A travel-sized deodorant.
- Some sort of entertainment such as a few magazines, a book, or a crossword puzzle magazine. Here’s a link to another article I’ve written entitled ‘Senior Citizen Magazines’ – there’s some interesting ideas there. Or, how about giving your senior citizen loved one some coloring books and markers?
- A few pictures of friends and family to have in the room to brighten your hospitalized senior citizen’s mood.
- Phone numbers of close friends or family.
- A small travel pillow, socks, and a sleep mask.
Have An Overnight Bag Packed For Yourself
As I mentioned above, I’ve been told never to leave a senior citizen in the hospital overnight alone, and I haven’t! What i have had to do though is send my wonderful boyfriend running to the local store for something I needed. The below items should be packed and ready to go!
- Any computer cables you might need. I try to keep a separate set of computer cables in a ziplock bag and in my overnight bag, ready to go.
- Include an air card so you can have internet access even if the hospital doesn’t have WiFi.
- Your telephone charger (duh. This one cost me $25…).
- Grooming items such as that toothbrush, toothpaste, and mouthwash.
- A travel pillow, socks, and sleep mask – no sense having your senior friend have all the fun.
- A book light and reading material.
- Earphones and or ear plugs to muffle the sounds of a hospital at night.
- Snacks for late night. Get things that will stay in a bag and not get stale such as individually wrapped crackers and cheese or nuts.
- Starbucks instant coffee. Those little coffee packs that are fairly new just require a cup and some hot water. Very welcomed at 3 am….
- Tylenol. You’re sure to get a headache. Also, you should have at least a days worth of your own medications packed in a plastic bag. You won’t be much good to your hospitalized senior citizen if you don’t take care of yourself.
Some Beautiful Tote Bags
I always had my gorgeous Anuschka tote bag packed to the gills with things I wanted to havea while caring for my own senior citizen in the hospital.
Anuschka Women’s Rousseaus Jungle Triple Compartment ToteAnuschka 487 TRB Backpack,Tribal Bllom,One SizeWorld Traveler 21-Inch Carry-On Shoulder Tote Duffel Bag, Black White Damask II, One SizeOvernight Travel Duffel Messenger Bag by d.o.t for Sport, Beach, Weekend, School
Be Nice To The Nurses
The old saying goes “You’ll get more flies with honey than with vinegar.” I’ve proven this theory time and time again. A box of fresh donuts will get you remembered if you drop them at the nurse’s station and tell them that your senior citizen friend wanted them to have them. Everyone loves free food so make sure to pick up enough for all the staff.
The nursing staff at hospitals are often overwhelmed with the ratio of patients to nurses so be patient with them. Don’t expect your request for a sleeping pill to be granted in a necessarily timely fashion – someone else on the floor may need the nurses more than your senior citizen.
You’ll also get priority treatment if you try to be helpful. Don’t call a nurse to wipe your hospitalized senior citizen’s mouth after eating a meal. Do what you can to pitch in. Trust me – they’ll appreciate you and treat you better for the effort.
Some Thoughtful Gifts For Nurses
It never hurts to be extra special nice to the hospital workers who help your senior citizen loved one. Show you appreciation with one or more of these gifts:
Thank You Appreciation Gift Basket Box Assortment of Retro Nostalgic CandyVera Bradley Cotton Lanyard Necklace Strap In Parisian Paisley 10887-340Christina Gold Arabesque Womens Lanyard with Green and Taupe StonesHoliday Time Indoor Growing Kit – Paperwhite ‘Ziva’Nurse 12 Oz Coffee Mug/cup withNURSE APPRECIATION Chocolate Oreo Cookie Tin with Nurses MessagesNURSES APPRECIATION ‘COOKIE TALK’ 2 LB. COOKIE PLATTERS (COOKIES WITH MESSAGES)