Dementia, Broken Bone, and Hospitalization
What to Do When Someone With Dementia Is Hospitalized for a Broken Bone
If your loved one with dementia must be hospitalized for a broken bone -- a common aftermath of an accidental fall -- make sure the treatment (and you) focus on three important issues.
1. Advocate for proper pain management
Most people hospitalized for a broken bone will have pain. For some, the pain is present all the time. For others, it's just with certain movements, such as standing.
For people with dementia, the trouble is that they often have difficulty communicating pain. They may not remember the pain when hospital staff come to ask about it. Or they may consistently deny being in pain, even though careful observation of their activity and facial expressions tells another story.
It's essential that your loved one be treated for pain, because untreated pain can cause delirium and also affect his or her ability to participate in the physical therapy that's needed for recovery. Studies show that elderly patients with broken bones are commonly undertreated for pain, especially if they have dementia.
Pain: What you can do
To ensure that your loved one with dementia gets properly treated for pain, take the following steps:
If your loved one denies being in pain, watch for other telltale signs, such as grimacing, refusing to move, or being more confused than usual.
Let the hospital staff know if your loved one often seems to be in pain. You know him or her better than they do and can observe your loved one over longer periods than any staffer can.
If a pain medication has been prescribed on an as-needed basis, you may find it helpful to remind hospital staff to give it to your loved one or talk to the doctor about making the order effective at regular intervals.