Middle age daughter comforting her elderly mother

7 Steps To Take When an Elderly Parent is Unexpectedly Hospitalized

An unexpected hospitalization for an aging parent can be a stressful process for their adult children. Here are some steps you can take to ensure you are advocating for your elderly father or mother.

1. Communicate openly with the hospital care team.

There will likely be a lot of questions about your loved one's health. The reality is that after a medical emergency, many people find it challenging to know what questions to ask. Things can seem chaotic at first, especially during the admission process.

To begin, identify your loved one's primary hospital doctor and the names of care team specialists. The primary physician is in charge of coordinating your loved one's care. If you are unsure who the primary physician is, your hospital case manager, charge nurse, or nurse manager should be able to give you this information.

Understand that it can take time to meet with the busy primary physician. Request a meeting but do take the time to write down any questions you have beforehand, so go into the meeting prepared. Afterward, it is usually easier to communicate with your loved one's nurses for status updates and answers to emerging questions. They are responsible for the day-to-day care and the most familiar with their conditions. If the nurse on duty cannot answer all of your questions, ask to schedule a time to meet with the doctor.

Advocating for your loved one's care is essential! Regular interaction with the care team will help ensure that they receive attentive, high-quality care. Attend care meetings with your loved one, and don't hesitate to ask for clarification or better follow-through.

2. Decide how your elderly parent will pay for their medical care.

We all know that medical care for even a short hospital stay can be costly. Good financial awareness and planning are key. The challenge is that many adult children often know little about their parents' financial situation. It is important to realize that if your parents are suddenly hospitalized, their finances are suddenly your business.

Start by determining if they have Medicare, Medicaid, or private insurance. The hospital's social worker is a great asset when it comes to figuring out what insurance your loved one has, how much it will cover and what other programs might be available to help offset care costs both inside and outside the hospital. Also, as your parents' age, start having conversations about finances and insurance. It is so much easier if you already have an idea of their financial picture before a crisis.

3. Learn about post-hospitalization care, medication, and equipment needs.

Following hospitalization, patients of all ages will need to have their health carefully monitored to prevent further issues. New prescriptions may be added to a senior's daily regimen, interacting with other medicines, foods, and pre-hospitalization lifestyle. Inpatient or outpatient therapies and treatments may be necessary. Medical equipment and other devices might be needed to enhance mobility and functioning, enabling them to return to their everyday routines as safely and quickly as possible. It's important to continue communicating with your loved one's medical team regarding status updates and long-term predictions for their health and recovery. Comforting Medical Supply has all of the essential supplies for in-home care. If you need something we don't regularly stock, we can order it for you and have it shipped to your home, or you can pick it up at our St. Helens, Oregon location.

4. Decide where your aging loved one will live after recovery.

The level of care they require after hospital discharge will determine where they go. Ideally, your loved one will be stabilized and deemed safe to return to their home without any major changes to their lifestyle, but that is not always the case.

Your loved one may need skilled nursing care in a rehabilitation facility to regain functionality before they can return to their home. This is often a short-term arrangement, but sometimes a permanent care and housing decision must be made. If it is no longer safe for your aging parent to live at home, they will need to move to an assisted living facility or be set up with an in-home care company. Aging at home in familiar surroundings is often the preference, but safety always must be considered. If you need help determining the best course of action for your aging loved one, you can request a free consultation from our sister-company, Comfort Makers. It's a challenging but important decision that most of us have to make at some point. Knowing what options are out there can help take the stress out of the decision-making process.

5. Make sure your aging parent's legal documents are in order.

All adults should have crucial documents in place—especially those who are in their golden years. Medical and financial powers of attorney, advance directives, HIPAA authorization, and estate planning documents are typically legal documents that seniors should have in place. Regardless of whether these preparations are already in place when a hospitalization occurs, it's essential to work with a reputable elder law attorney to ensure all bases are covered.

6. Become an expert on your loved one's medical condition.

It can be difficult to learn details about your loved one's medical condition, especially when coordinating hospital payment and discharge plans. You will receive a lot of information from your loved one's hospital care team, but your work isn't finished just because your elder has been discharged. Take the time to learn all you can about their medical condition(s) and medications. A solid understanding of your aging parent's health is invaluable in making you an influential member of their care team.

7. Remember to take care of yourself too.

It's important for you to find the proper support to help you navigate this new stage of both your lives. Take advantage of in-person or online support groups. Here you can ask questions about your situation and receive answers and emotional support from others who have been in your shoes. Make sure you are doing everything you can to help yourself in addition to your loved one. Sometimes this means taking a break every so often and letting someone else pick up the slack. Comfort Makers is here to provide help for the adult children of parents aging at home. Schedule a free consultation and see how they can provide a regular break or peace of mind while you are at work.