When Your Elderly Relative is Hospitalized: 3 Things to Do ASAP

I’ll never forget the day my grandad collapsed. At first, we thought it was heat stroke. It was a typically hot August day, and we had spent the afternoon outdoors at a local Ribfest. But the ambulance staff quickly caught on to the fact that it was something much more serious, and my grandad was rushed to the hospital.

What followed ended up being a months-long ordeal, including two extended hospital stays, before he finally succumbed to cancer that November. My family was blindsided and completely unprepared.

Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time working with advocates and caregivers for seniors in my job as a writer. I know now there are things my family could have done then to make things easier for everyone, including my grandad.


If your parent, grandparent, or another elderly relative lands in the hospital, there are three things you should do as soon as possible:


1. Start Thinking About Hospital Discharge

It might seem absurd to even contemplate discharge when your loved one has only just been hospitalized. But if they are ever going to leave the hospital, the hospital discharge process is crucial to their recovery.


Discharging someone from the hospital involves so much more than arranging a ride home. You need to know exactly what kind of care your loved one is going to require and the things you will need to do to keep them safe and comfortable in the aftermath. It might require methods you’ve never done before and equipment you don’t yet own.


Planning for hospital discharge will require that you communicate with your loved one’s entire health care team: doctors at the hospital, specialists, nurses, your loved one’s family practitioner and so on. It will also involve insurers and, possibly, legal professionals.


This is not something you can accomplish in a day. It’s literally never too soon to plan for hospital discharge, even if you don’t know when your loved one is coming home. Start planning now, and once you have a timeline, start putting that plan into action.


2. Attend to Your Relative’s Financial Obligations

Money is the last thing anyone should have to think about in this situation. Unfortunately, the bills won’t stop coming in the mail just because your loved one is in the hospital.


My family was lucky to think of this not long after the first hospital stay began, because my grandad had monthly rent and credit card bills to pay.


Depending on the circumstances, this might also be time to think about taking on your loved one’s finances in the long term. It might seem callous to focus on money right now, but it’s so important.


3. Ask for Help

Chances are, you aren’t sure what to do next. You’re dependent on the doctors and nurses right now. But that won’t always be the case. Once your relative gets discharged, you will be responsible for their care, for arranging care from a trustworthy helper.


Don’t be afraid to ask friends and other relatives for help. There are likely services in your area designed to help families in your situation as well.


There are some fantastic resources on planning for a loved one’s care online. Two in particular I would recommend are Unforgettable for dementia/Alzheimer’s resources and Right At Home for home care services. There are many others out there.


Look for blogs and resource sites that cover your specific geographical area, since they can point you in the direction of government programs and other local support that can help.