A stay in the hospital can be stressful for anyone, but this can be an especially trying time for seniors. These tips and guidelines can help guide seniors and their families through a hospitalization safely and virtually stress free.
Feelings of unease and illness, changes in medications and vital signs along with being in an unfamiliar environment often put hospitalized seniors at increased risk of suffering from a fall. Falls can extend hospital stays; cause pain, injury, bleeding or bone fractures.
Hospital staff fall prevention guidelines:
- Assess fall risk every nursing shift
- Consult physical and occupational therapists
- Encourage all patients to use call bell prior to walking
- Assist with bathing and toileting
- May use alarm systems (on the bed or chair) that will notify staff when your loved one is getting up
- Placement non-skid foot wear on all patients at all times when out of bed
- Use of bedside walkers, canes and commodes to assist with walking
- Ensure patient’s belongings are within reach so that they don’t feel the need to get up without help
Family fall prevention tips:
- Encourage your loved one to always ask for assistance before attempting to get up
- Collaborate with the nursing, physical therapy and medical teams if you have concerns about your family member's walking ability, weakness, or complaints of dizziness or fatigue
- If you watch your family member get up, remind them to always take their time going from a sitting to a standing position, and to take their time before they begin walking (this will help prevent dizziness from sudden changes in blood pressure)
- Bring in your family member's glasses, hearing aids, canes or walkers they normally use
- Notify the nurses and doctors if your family member has ever had a fall (at home or in a hospital) and if they’ve ever told you they are afraid of falling
Hospital Acquired Infections
All persons that are admitted to the hospital are at risk for acquiring infections that are specific to the hospital environment. The hospital staff uses as much caution as possible to prevent the spread of infection, however, some patients are at increased risk of infections due to weakened immune systems or catheters.
Hospital staff infection prevention guidelines:
- Hand washing prior to entering a patient room and upon exiting
- hand washing before and after any procedures (wound care, toileting, feeding, IV care and catheter care)
- Use antiseptic alcohol on IV tubing prior to administering medications
- Advocate for the removal of unnecessary indwelling devices (foley catheters, central catheters)
Family infection prevention tips:
- Hand washing before entering their family member's hospital room and upon exiting
- Hand washing before assisting your family member with meals
- Assisting your family member to wash their hands before eating and after toileting
- Ask questions regarding the care of IV catheters and urinary catheters
- Ask whether these catheters are still necessary (early removal decreases risk of infection)
- Remind hospital staff to wash their hands before providing care to your loved ones
Hospital Induced Delirium
Delirium is a type of confusion that most frequently occurs in the elderly. Most persons with delirium present with a sudden confusion, unable to think clearly and keep their attention. Delirium is different from dementia (a chronic, irreversible condition) because the underlying cause can usually be determined and treated.
Seniors are at risk for developing hospital induced delirium because of infection, dehydration, changes in medications, sleep habits, and environment. Hospital induced delirium is more common among persons with lengthy hospital stays, those who spend any amount of time in the intensive care unit and those with a history of dementia.
Hospital staff hospital induced delirium prevention guidelines:
- Avoid medications that may cause delirium (pain medications, anti-anxiety medications)
- Avoid waking the patient in the middle of the night
- Encourage maintenance of a normal daily routine
- Treat pain adequately
- Encourage and assist with regular ambulation. Avoid attachments.
- Prevent infections
- Ensure all visible clocks and calendars are correct
Family hospital induced delirium prevention tips:
- Ensure that your family member has their glasses/dentures/hearing aids/watches
- Bring in familiar photos of your family
- Bring in the most up to date list of your family member's medications (including medication name, dose & usual timing)
- Visit with your family member often - but keep the visit to a reasonable length to avoid over stimulation and fatigue
Kennedy Acute Care for Elders (ACE) Unit
Older adults often need specialized care when they are in the hospital. Kennedy University Hospital’s Acute Care for Elders (ACE) Unit in Stratford, NJ, is designed to meet the unique needs of hospitalized older adults, while offering support and access to their loved ones. Click here to learn more about this service.