Helping with Hospital Treatments​

Prepare patient and yourself for the hospital

  • Review reason for treatment and why it is important to have the treatment now
  • Review the living will and if there is none, arrange to have one made for use in the hospital
  • If this is an overnight stay or longer, prepare a bag of personal items for grooming, occupying time while waiting for treatment, and clothing for returning 
  • Provide transportation to and from 
  • Provide hospital staff with a copy of the living will

​At the Hospital

  • Observe what is being done and by whom; also be alert when staff changes occur, whether there is consistency in treatment
  • Drugs have side effects.  If these are given to the patient, be alert to changes in behavior, especially when the nurse is not in the room.  Side effects can range from restlessness to shortness of breath, dizziness to complaints of nausea.  If nurse is away from the bed and doesn't see the changes, let her know.
  • Be alert to the importance of hand washing especially while in the hospital

Post treatment 

  • Review patient's understanding of what just occurred
  • Inquire about how s/he is feeling now
  • Note any responses that indicate side effects
  • Inform doctor's office if these last longer than anticipated or are intense and require attention​

Helping with Death and Dying Issues

Stages of dying (espoused originally by Kubler-Ross in the book On Death and Dying) include denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance of the reality of death as a part of life itself.  According to David Kessler, M.D., The Needs of the Dying, are to be treated as a living human being, to remain hopeful, and to die in peace and dignity.  Read these books in preparation.

The prognosis of no other treatments available and death is imminent is not easy to accept, nor should one, without getting a second opinion from another specialist for this condition. If the evidence they provide is convincing, then the decision has to be made about where to spend one's final days: home, long term care facility, or hospital.  Assistance can be offered as follows:

Choice of Hospital/Assisted Living/Nursing Home

  • Respect patient's autonomy and right to choose
  • Be sensitive to when the patient needs rest and when he/she needs to talk
  • Be responsive to patient's needs for increased pain medicines or adjustments to pillows and bed positions
  • In the final days, however, don't over stimulate them as they attempt to disengage from this world
  • Allow the patient to pass peacefully

Choice of returning home

  • Arrange for home nursing care
  • Contact Hospice Care whose services are generally available for the last six months of life
  • Show respect for patient's autonomy and choices
  • Focus on quality of life during the process of dying
  • Treat whole person taking into account past and current situation
  • Provide emotional support and promote open and sensitive communication among family members

Get documents in order

  • If a will has not yet been made, facilitate preparation of one
  • If after death preferences have not been stated or shared, when an opportunity presents itself, discuss patient's preferences for burial, cremation, or giving body to science and put these in writing with signature
  • Help arrange whichever the patient prefers.


The aging process changes the human body.  In addition to changes in the five senses -- vision, hearing, taste, smell, and touch --flexibility, strength, dexterity, grasping, and mobility may also be expected to change.  Genetics will dictate our proneness to certain kinds of changes such as memory losses. Late onset illnesses, diseases, and traumas may also impact the body, mind, and spirit.

An individual 90 years of age may have the body of a 75 year old because of keeping in shape over the years.  Through strength training, stretching, and aerobic exercises the body can reduce the effects of the aging process on daily life.  Even accidents and chronic diseases are handled with greater ease because of appropriate diets and exercise.  Some individuals, however, may have had stresses in their lives that have led to impairments and limitations in functioning.  Here are some ways to be helpful.

Helping with Doctor's Visits

Some communities have transportation available for doctors visits.  If these are not available, the provision of transportation for an older adult who no longer drives is important.

When an older adult has a hearing, visual, or memory issue, assisting with doctor visits can aid communication and getting a more accurate diagnosis.  Prior to the visit discuss reasons for the doctor's visit. Help clarify the patient's symptoms, pain levels, and location of pains when the patient is unable to do this for herself.   While at the doctor's office, take notes on what is done and what is said. Ask for copies of lab tests and doctor's reports to keep on file and have ready if visits to specialists are required. Clarify recommendations before leaving the doctor's office and check that the patient understands.  If prescription was given, go with the patient to have it filled using the generic form (cheaper) when available.  Assist with understanding of how to use the prescribed medicines.

Older Adults