Preparing a Loved One with Dementia for Surgery

Life can be difficult for patients who live with dementia.
Many times they suffer from conditions such as depression, short attention span, difficulty concentrating and planning and memory loss and confusion.
And the possibility of having to undergo surgery, can be a traumatic experience – worsening some of the symptoms your loved one may already be experiencing.
It’s normal for families to be apprehensive about the effects of anesthesia on seniors with the disease. They may fear that the drugs administered prior to surgery may cause or exacerbate memory loss and changes in behavior.
What’s important to understand is that post-operative cognitive dysfunction (or a decline in memory function) is only short-term. And according to Dr. Alex Bekker, Professor of Anesthesiology and Neurosurgery at NYU School of Medicine, only about 10 percent of patients over 65 who have surgery performed, experience problems like delirium or a decline in focus, attention, perception and thinking or memory, concentration and planning.
Usually these symptoms appear immediately after surgery, lasting about 1 to 3 days, and in some cases even a week. Complications due to anesthesia could also prolong your loved one’s hospital stay. Some signs may not be noticeable until the patient is discharged and starts exhibiting difficulty doing some of the things they’re used to doing. In rare cases, persistent symptoms could signal serious cognitive decline – an underlying condition that may have been present before the procedure.
Knowing what to expect before and after surgery can help ease many of the fears you or your loved one may have about the procedure.
Here are a few other things that Freedom Home Care suggests to help make the transition to and from surgery easier for everyone involved.
Know what symptoms are experienced from the surgery – Your senior may need help making decisions before and after the surgery. It helps to have someone they know and trust present to advocate on their behalf.
Understand the recovery process – Doctors can provide all of the necessary information about the steps involved in your loved one’s recovery.
Be aware of any possible complications – Dementia patients are more at-risk for problems like confusion and delirium after surgery. It’s best to be prepared to make your senior’s recovery as successful as possible.
Know what their restrictions or limitations are – Will they be confined to bed? How soon can they walk? Will they need assistance getting around?
Coordinate home care – Discuss options for continued care with doctors, nurses and other family members before leaving the hospital. Knowing whether they’ll need post-surgery home care or outpatient services ahead of time will help make the transition from the hospital easier for your loved one.