Hospital care


Bear in mind that a hospital stay may cause confusion and disorientation. It’s a new environment and that makes it unfamiliar.

It’s particularly important to make sure that the staff are fully informed. A family member or friend should be with you to help because ensuring that staff are aware that you are living with dementia is vital. The staff will not necessarily know this of this, and may not be specially trained to care for people who are living with the condition.

If the hospital visit is planned, find out whether the hospital has a dementia champion. If there isn’t you can arrange to meet with the named nurse. He or she should be able to answer any questions you have and work with you to make sure that you are well cared for. You, or the person with you, can inform them of your dementia and if you have put together a life story then it may be helpful to take this when you are first admitted. If you have pulled out the important issues and have any medical information in there such as advanced decisions and specific health and care considerations take that along too. This can be kept in your patient file so that anyone who may treat you can see it. These documents can be a useful tool for medical staff, who may find it easier to communicate about your dementia if they have some background information on your life.

During both planned and unplanned visits, the hospital staff will appreciate any information that you can give them. make sure that you, or your carer let the staff know things that might make you upset. You may also be able to let the nurses know what they can do to help if you become anxious.

You may need help at mealtimes. Hospital staff find this information useful as mealtimes are often a busy time for them and they may not have the resources readily available to be able to help people who are living with dementia.

If you receive formal care services, they may need to be changed or reinstated when you are discharged. You may find that you are required to stay in hospital for longer than anticipated if services are required and are not in place. You, or your carer, should speak to the hospital discharge team to get an assessment of your needs to assist in getting the relevant support in place as quickly as you can. This is likely to include a number of different professionals including social services staff, occupational therapists and medical specialists. It should result with a care plan being put in place and services being arranged.

If you are not in need of formal care services you may be discharged back home and require a few weeks of support to enable you to get back on your feet. Speak to the hospital or any social worker about the options available. This may be called ‘reablement’ or intermediate care.


Some people you might meet on your journey:

GPs

The local GP will probably have been your first point of contact. The GP is the one who may diagnose a particular condition or refer you to a consultant doctor or a memory clinic.

Consultants

These are doctors who have had extensive training and experience in a particular area. There are different types of consultants, and who you are referred to will depend on your symptoms and how the services in the local area are arranged. The consultant may be a:

  • Neurologist – specialists in disorders of the brain and nervous system.
  • Geriatrician – specialists in the physical illnesses and disabilities of old age and the care of older people.
  • Psychiatrist – specialists in diagnosing and treating a range of mental health problems.
  • Old age psychiatrist – psychiatrists who have had further training in the mental health problems of older people.

The consultant will work with other professionals, including nurses, social workers and occupational therapists.

Community mental health nurses

Sometimes known as community psychiatric nurses (CPNs), these nurses will work within the community so will probably make home visits or you may meet them at your local GP surgery. They are able to carry out assessments in the home and will provide treatment, care and support for those with mental health conditions and dementia. They can advise on how people with dementia and those supporting them can improve their quality of life and general health.

Mobility professionals

Some people with dementia need support to stay physically active or mobile, or help to get back to normal after an operation or hospital stay.

Chiropodists

Maintaining mobility is much easier when you have healthy, pain-free feet. NHS chiropody (sometimes known as podiatry) can be accessed through the local GP but there are restrictions on who is eligible so it is best to check with them first.

Ears, teeth and eye professionals

Though these things may not be the first issues you think about if you are living with a dementia diagnosis, problems with these parts of the body can greatly impact the wellbeing of somebody with dementia as they can increase levels of confusion, distress or discomfort. It is important to get checked regularly and find professionals who have an understanding of the specific health considerations of someone with dementia. A referral to an audiologist, dentist or optometrist may be made through the GP.

Speech and language therapists

These therapists are able to advise on ways of communicating more effectively and on relieving any swallowing difficulties that may occur.

Social workers

Sometimes referred to as ‘care managers’ or ‘care managers’, social workers have specific training and qualifications. They are usually involved in assessing a person’s needs for services and in planning, coordinating and advising on services to meet those needs.

Care workers

Care workers are formally trained individuals who can also help with day-to-day things such as personal care, washing and dressing, changing the bedding and emptying commodes, supervising the preparation and cooking of meals, prompting to take medication at the right times and accompanying you on any social activities and help with getting to where you need to be.

Clinical psychologists

Clinical psychologists assess memory, learning abilities and other skills, and can offer support. They often work with consultants in memory clinics, as part of a team.

Continence advisers

Some areas may have a continence adviser who can advise on problems associated with continence (going to the toilet). They can also give information on useful equipment ranging from commodes to incontinence pads. The GP may make a referral to an adviser, or you can get in touch directly.

Dietitians

A professionally qualified dietitian can provide advice and guidance about food, nutrition and issues such as a poor appetite, weight loss, weight gain, vitamins and food supplements. Your GP or consultant can arrange for a referral to a dietitian. Some dietitians may be able to offer home visits (including to care homes), while others may be based at a local health centre or hospital.

Occupational therapists (OTs)

OTs can advise on adaptations and equipment for the home, and on ways of maintaining independence for as long as possible. Some OTs work for the health service and some for social care. If you think an OT might be helpful, ask your GP, consultant or social worker. You may be referred or you can contact them directly as some work privately.