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How to prepare someone with Alzheimer's for hospitalization during COVID-19

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Published: Apr. 22, 2020 at 3:39 PM CDT
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The Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) is providing families affected by Alzheimer's with tips to keep in mind in case their loved one needs to be hospitalized during the coronavirus pandemic.

The foundation said care transitions, such as moving a patient from an assisted living facility to a hospital, are often difficult for people living with Alzheimer's, and may be especially challenging during the pandemic.

“Primary caregivers should be aware that the additional restrictions in place during the COVID-19 pandemic may require that their loved one be cared for without their regular in-person guidance,” said Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., AFA’s president & CEO. “This can be disruptive and anxiety-producing for a person living with Alzheimer’s under normal circumstances, but even more so now. A few preparations that involve taking control of the things within your power can help ease these transitions and ensure that the person remains as safe as possible.”

Prior to a hospital admission, AFA recommends the following:

  • Be aware of protocol policy changes. For example, it is likely that caregivers will not be permitted to enter the hospital with their loved ones.
    • You may be directed to go to a different location than you would normally expect. It is important that caregivers connect with the person's doctor in advance about any special preparations.
  • Create a "go kit" that includes personal, legal, medical and daily living documentation and items.
    • Legal documentation should include: Healthcare agent/proxy, power of attorney, advance directives, personal ID
    • Medication lists
    • Physical limitation and food preference reminders
  • Communicate with the care staff: Sharing personal details about your loved one’s behaviors and preferences with the care staff can help them ease the transition.
    • For example, let them know that the person is sensitive to water, has difficulty sleeping or gets easily agitated. Ask whether things such as photos, personal care products and favorite items are allowed, as they can make a new space feel more familiar and comfortable.
  • Be an advocate: It is more important than ever that a caregiver be a strong advocate for their family member.
    • For example, if your loved one has COVID-19 or is possibly exposed to it, they may have special restrictions placed on them (for instance, they may not be able to return to their long-term care facility after a hospitalization). If this is the case, caregivers may need to secure the assistance of a local ombudsman in their state.
    • For additional regional support, AFA recommends that caregivers reach out to the Eldercare Locator, a nationwide public service of the Administration on Aging (AoA); it connects older Americans and their caregivers with trustworthy local support resources.
  • Reach out
    • If you have additional questions or concerns, you can call AFA’s Helpline (866-232-8484), available 7 days a week (9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., ET, weekdays; 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., ET, weekends). You can also connect through AFA’s website, alzfdn.org, for an online chat (click on the blue and white icon in the lower, right-hand corner). The Helpline is staffed entirely by licensed social workers, specially trained in understanding how to help people who have a dementia and their caregivers.

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