Flashback to 2014: My mother who has Alzheimer's has been admitted to the hospital for what would ultimately be diagnosed as a severe urinary tract infection. She was scared, confused, and extremely agitated (an understatement). Enter the nurse, who appeared to have no interest in the information we were trying to share with her, which was that her patient had Alzheimer's disease that had progressed to the point where she was easily agitated, often seemed delusional, and was unable to answer very basic questions. Ignoring us, she began asking my mom complex questions about her symptoms, which she couldn't answer and served to make her even more upset. The nurse's response? Repeat the questions at over twice the decibel level. While smiling. The nurse continued to ignore us as we tried to explain that mom's hearing wasn't impaired - she had Alzheimer's. And so it went, during this hospital stay and others we would have.
Over the next few years we would learn that hospitals are woefully unequipped to address the needs of patients with Alzheimer's and dementia. The reason is that non-specialized doctors, nurses and social workers simply don't understand the disease. Why is that? The answer - from this caregiver-survivor's perspective - is that because Alzheimer's is the only disease that is not covered by insurance or medicaid patients never enter the system with a diagnosis of Alzheimer's. They enter the system for some other reason, and Alzheimer's is a "post-it note" on their chart.
If you have a love one with Alzheimer's in the early stage, there are a few things you can do to be prepared for potential hospital stays. Here is my prep list:
I'm sharing our family's experience in the hope that, with a bit of advanced planning, you can ensure that your loved one is more comfortable in the event that a visit to the ER or a hospital stay is necessary.
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