A dementia nurse has opened up about what to expect if an elderly relative with dementia has to go into hospital and the things you can do to support them. Speaking to Good Housekeeping, Jo James, lead nurse for dementia at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, offered some helpful advice.
She started by explaining that people with cognitive impairment often get a form of acute, short-term confusion when they’re physically ill. This delirium is exacerbated by going into hospital, where the familiarity of home is lost.
Ms James said: “Families can come in and it seems like their loved one with dementia is ten times worse; it’s really horrible.”
One of the things that many relatives of those with dementia don’t realise is that they can spend as much time as is needed with their family members in hospital. This is something that is part of John’s Campaign and has seen many NHS hospital trusts sign up to the waiving of visiting hours for those with dementia.
The next thing that Ms James recommends is helping hospital staff to know more about the patient and this can be easily done through the This Is Me document, available from the Alzheimer’s Society’s website. Download it, fill it in with personal information, such as what the individual did as a career and their favourite foods, and stick it above the bed.
Accompany this with a hospital bag filled with your relative’s favourite possessions. This could be anything from a comforting cardigan to copies of photographs, showing the most important people in their life.
Ms James also reassured concerned family members that there are people at the hospital they can turn to for help and advice. Most trusts will have a dementia team or dementia lead and it’s their job to offer support to the relatives who also need it.
If the patient has come from a care home, then the staff there who have got to know them and have experience with dementia should also be able to help. A spell in hospital can be upsetting and disorientating for someone with cognitive impairment, but there is a lot of support out there.
Some 850,000 people in the UK have dementia and this figure is likely to top one million by the year 2025. With no cure available at present, learning to live with the condition as best as possible is the only option.