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Older Patients

Courtesy Hartford HospitalTaking an active role in your care is important for all patients.  But when you are older, you may have more health conditions and treatments to consider, so it becomes even more important to talk often and openly with your doctor and other caregivers.

Preparing for a Hospital Visit

Take information with you.
Make sure you have complete information about all the medicines you are taking.  It’s best to keep an up-to-date list of everything you take, including all your prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal remedies or supplements.  Click here for a wallet card to help you track your medications. If you don’t have a list, put all your medicines in a bag and take them with you.  You should also take your insurance cards, names, and phone numbers of all doctors you see.

Make sure you can see and hear as well as possible.
Many older people use glasses or need aids for hearing.  Let the hospital staff know if you have a hard time seeing or hearing. For example, you may want to say: “My hearing makes it hard to understand everything you’re saying. It helps a lot when you speak slowly.”

Consider asking a family member or friend to be there with you.

It may provide peace of mind to have a family member or friend accompany you to the hospital on the day of surgery. For same-day or out-patient surgery, you may need them to provide a ride home. This person can also be there to help you understand information you may receive, take notes about the procedure or care, or participate in healthcare decisions while you are hospitalized. Speak with your clinician to see what level of family or friend involvement may be needed.

Helping You Remember

No matter what your age, it’s easy to forget or not understand a lot of what your hospital caregivers say.  So, as your doctor or nurse gives you information, it’s a good idea to check that you are following along. 

Get clarification.  
Ask about anything that does not seem clear.  For instance, you might say: “I want to make sure I understand. Could you explain that a little more?” or “I did not understand that word. What does it mean?”  Another way to check is to repeat what you think the doctor means in your own words and ask, “Is this correct?”

Take notes.
When you are getting information about your diagnosis and treatment, it is helpful to write down the main points, or ask the doctor or nurse write them down for you.

Safety Tips

Please take a few extra safety steps while in the hospital:

Planning for Care in the Event of a Serious Illness

Making your wishes known. 
You may have some concerns or wishes about your care if you become seriously ill. If you have questions about what choices you have, ask your clinician.  You can specify your desires through documents called advance directives or by specifying them with your clinicians.  One way to bring up the subject is to say:“I’m worried about what would happen in the hospital if I were very sick and not likely to get better. Can you tell me what generally happens in that case?”  If you are admitted to the hospital or a nursing home, a nurse or other staff member may ask if you have any advance directives.

Moving to assisted living. 
Another hard decision that many older people face is whether or not to move to a place where they can have more help—often an assisted living facility. If you are considering such a move, your caregivers can help you weigh the pros and cons based on your health and other circumstances. He or she may be able to refer you to a social worker or a local agency that can help in finding an assisted living facility.

Paying for medications.
Don’t hesitate to ask the doctor about the cost of your medications when you are leaving the hospital.  If they are too expensive for you, the doctor may be able to suggest less expensive alternatives. If the doctor does not know the cost, ask the pharmacist before filling the prescription. Then call your doctor and ask if there is a generic or other less expensive choice. You could say, for instance: “It turns out that this medicine is too expensive for me. Is there another one or a generic drug that would cost less?”  Your doctor may also be able to refer you to a medical assistance program that can help with drug costs.

Questions

During your hospital stay, you'll probably have many questions about your care. Always feel free to ask your doctor these questions. Your doctor is there to help you get the care you need and to discuss your concerns. Your nurse or social worker also may be able to answer many of your questions or help you get the information you need.

You may find it useful to write down your questions as you think of them. For example, you may want to ask your doctor or nurse some or all of the following questions:

Discharge Planning

Before going home, you'll need discharge orders from your doctor and a release form from the hospital business office. Discharge planning before leaving the hospital can help you prepare for your health and home-care needs after you go home. The discharge planner can help you arrange for a visiting nurse, hospital equipment, meals-on-wheels, or other services. The discharge planner also knows about senior centers, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, and other long-term care services.

Additional Resources for More Information

The National Institute on Aging and the National Library of Medicine, both part of the National Institutes of Health, have developed a website designed specifically for older people. The website features a wide variety of popular health topics presented in a simple-to-use, easy-to-read format. It also has a “talking web” feature that reads the text to you. Visit this website at www.nihseniorhealth.gov
 
NIA has free information in English and Spanish, including a Spanish language version of this booklet called Conversando con su Medicó. To order publications or request a publications catalog, call the NIA Information Center at 1-800-222-2225 or TTY at 1-800-222-4225. Publications can be ordered online by visiting www.nia.nih.gov; you can also sign up for email alerts about new NIA publications at this website. Publications from NIA are available in bulk—for example, you may want to encourage your doctor to order copies of this publication for his or her office.

 

For free fact sheets and other publications about Alzheimer’s disease, contact the NIA’s Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center at 1-800-438-4380. The ADEAR Center website is www.nia.nih.gov/Alzheimers.

 

Other Resources 

NIA Information Center
P.O. Box 8057
Gaithersburg, MD 20898-8057
1-800-222-2225
1-800-222-4225 (TTY)
www.nia.nih.gov

National Institutes of Health
NIHSeniorHealth.gov
www.nihseniorhealth.gov

National Institutes of Health
9000 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20892
301-496-4000
www.nih.gov

MedlinePlus
c/o National Library of Medicine
8600 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20894
1-888-FIND-NLM (1-888-346-3656)
www.medlineplus.gov

Medicare
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
7500 Security Boulevard
Baltimore, MD 21244-1850
1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227)
www.medicare.gov

AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons)
601 E Street, NW
Washington, DC 20049
1-888-OUR-AARP (1-888-687-2277)
www.aarp.org

Advance Directives 

Patient Education Forum: Advance Directives
The American Geriatric Society
The Empire State Building
350 Fifth Avenue, Suite 801
New York, NY 10118
1-800-563-4916
212-308-1414
http://www.healthinaging.org/aging-and-health-a-to-z/topic:advanced-directives-advanced-directives/

Alcohol

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
5635 Fishers Lane, MSC 9304
Bethesda, MD 20892-9304
301-443-3860
www.niaaa.nih.gov

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
DHHS
P.O. Box 2345
Rockville, MD 20847-2345
1-800-729-6686
1-800-487-4889 (TTY)
www.samhsa.gov

Assisted Living

Assisted Living Federation of America
1650 King Street, Suite 602
Alexandria, VA 22314-2747
703-894-1805
www.alfa.org

National Center for Assisted Living
1201 L Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005
202-842-4444
www.ncal.org

AARP
601 E Street, NW
Washington, DC 20049
1-888-OUR-AARP (1-888-687-2277)
www.aarp.org/families/housing_choices

Care in the Event of a Terminal Illness 

National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
1700 Diagonal Road, Suite 625
Alexandria, VA 22314-2844
1-800-658-8898
www.nhpco.org

Driving 

SeniorDrivers.org
AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
Administrative Office
607 14th Street, NW, Suite 201
Washington, DC 20005-2000
202-638-5944
www.seniordrivers.org

AARP Driver Safety Program
601 E Street, NW
Washington, DC 20049-0001
1-888-OUR-AARP (1-888-687-2277)
www.aarp.org/families/driver_safety

Patient Education Forum: Safe Driving for Seniors
The American Geriatrics Society
The Empire State Building
350 Fifth Avenue, Suite 801
New York, NY 10118-0801
212-308-1414

Exercise 

American College of Sports Medicine
401 West Michigan Street
Indianapolis, IN 46202-3233
317-637-9200
www.acsm.org

The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports
Department W
200 Independence Avenue, SW
Room 738-H
Washington, DC 20201-0004
202-690-9000
www.fitness.gov

Grief, Mourning, and Depression 

National Institute of Mental Health
6001 Executive Boulevard
Room 8184, MSC 9663
Bethesda, MD 20892-9663
1-866-615-6464
301-443-8431 (TTY)
www.nimh.nih.gov

HIV/AIDS 

National Association on HIV Over Fifty
23 Miner Street
Boston, MA 02215-3318
617-233-7107
www.hivoverfifty.org

Incontinence 

National Association for Continence
P.O. Box 1019
Charleston, SC 29402-1019
1-800-BLADDER (1-800-252-3337)
www.nafc.org

The Simon Foundation for Continence
P.O. Box 815
Wilmette, IL 60091
1-800-23-SIMON (1-800-237-4666)
www.simonfoundation.org

Medication 

FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research: Consumer Information
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
5600 Fishers Lane
Rockville, MD 20857-0001
1-888-INFO-FDA (1-888-463-6332)
http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/default.htm

Medicare-Approved Drug Discount
Card Program
1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227)
www.medicare.gov

Memory Problems 

Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center
P.O. Box 8250
Silver Spring, MD 20907-8250
1-800-438-4380
www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers

Alzheimer’s Association
225 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 1700
Chicago, IL 60601-7633
1-800-272-3900
www.alz.org

Problems With Family/Caregiving 

Children of Aging Parents
P.O. Box 167
Richboro, PA 18954-0167
1-800-227-7294
www.caps4caregivers.org

Eldercare Locator Service
1-800-677-1116 (bilingual/TTY)
www.eldercare.gov

National Center on Elder Abuse
University of Delaware
297 Graham Hall
Newark, DE 19716
302-831-3525
www.ncea.aoa.gov

Sexuality 

Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States
90 John Street, Suite 704 
New York, NY 10038
212-819-9770
www.siecus.org

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