Post-hospitalisation for seniors, family members and caregivers can be a harrowing experience. A senior can either exit hospital in better shape than before, or more commonly, suffer a number of setbacks in terms of physical and cognitive function. Of course, this is largely determined by age, existing illness and physical capabilities before hospitalisation – and it’s not always permanent!
But if you have a spouse or parent who is particularly frail, ill or suffers from cognitive impairment, returning to a home environment can present a whole new set of challenges.
Here are a few simple ways to ease you through this transition with your loved one;
1. Reassessing mental and physical capabilities
If a senior has taken a turn for the worse post-hospitalisation, it’s important to remember that these changes are not always permanent. This is where adequate assessment of a senior’s cognitive and physical abilities must be done by a professional as well as caregivers and family members alike. From here, you’ll be able to determine the level of care they will need in future months to come.
Caregivers, whether part-time or full-time, should be in contact with doctors, hospital staff, physical therapists and family members during this transition period to assess and report on a senior’s evolving needs. In other words, caregivers should be proactive in determining a senior’s needs after hospitalisation.
2. Adjusting to the senior care spectrum of needs
The care of an ill, frail or mentally impaired senior exists on a spectrum. As they age, their condition tends to progressively worsen, and unfortunately, hospitalisation can only exacerbate this reality. This is where the level of care a senior needs may need to be changed according to their spectrum of needs. For example, a part-time caregiver may need to be replaced by a live-in caregiver or a senior may need to be moved to a 24-hour supervised nursing home. But keep in mind that there are cases where these needs are only temporary, and the change is not necessarily permanent.
3. Consider assistive devices and home modifications
Once the level of care has been adequately determined for a senior post-hospitalisation, you may need to consider an assistive device or simple home modifications to assist in their new level of care. If a senior still lives at home with the help of a part-time caregiver, discuss with their doctor what modifications and devices would help their condition. Physical and occupational therapists can also help in offering advice on devices, walking aids and at-home therapy treatments to help with a senior’s recovery and ongoing care.
4. Understand the reality of hospitalisation delirium
This is a common occurrence for seniors who have been hospitalised for a prolonged period. They may lose their sense of time and space and begin to display symptoms of delirium. A change in environment as drastic as hospitalisation can trigger delirium in seniors due to overstimulation, unfamiliarity and confusion about their health and surroundings. This, in turn, wreaks havoc on their mental actuality.
Combined with a lack of sleep, antibiotics, pain medication and the side-effects of anaesthesia, hospital-induced delirium is a reality to look out for. The disoriented state should stabilise once a senior is back in their familiar environment and regular routine, but for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients, this could only worsen their condition.
5. Keep an eye on mood and behaviour changes
A senior who returns home after hospital with a weakened state of health or state of independence is likely to feel confused and frustrated. These changes can manifest in mood and behavioural changes, such as agitation, defiance, aggression and disorientation. Family members and caregivers must work together to address these challenges and help make a senior’s life as comfortable and uncomplicated as possible.