Going into hospital with coronavirus

Many people in hospital with severe coronavirus disease will be older, including those with underlying health conditions such as dementia. Read our advice for when a person with dementia who has COVID-19 is admitted to hospital, including being able to see them.

You might find some of the information on this page distressing to read, but it’s better to know now so you are prepared and know what to do.

Who needs hospital care for coronavirus?

Anyone with severe symptoms of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) will need to go into hospital as an emergency (dial 999) for treatment. 

These symptoms include:

  • struggling to breathe, for example not being able to get words out
  • coughing up blood
  • blue lips or a blue tinged face
  • skin that is cold and clammy, pale or blotchy.

Some people with coronavirus won’t have such severe symptoms but will be admitted to hospital for other reasons. They may have serious underlying health problems that need careful monitoring. Or they may not have enough support at home or they would be at risk – if their mild coronavirus symptoms got worse suddenly and they were not be able to get to hospital quickly. 

If you have concerns because of issues such as these call NHS 111 or the GP – who will advise on individual circumstances.

Admission to hospital

The person will be admitted to a special area of the hospital for coronavirus patients. Anyone going into this area must wear personal protective equipment (PPE) such as a gown/apron, gloves, face mask and eye protection. 

A member of staff wearing PPE may frighten or unsettle a person with dementia. Staff should offer them reassurance, speak calmly and possibly have a photo and their name visible on their clothing.

Visiting someone in hospital

To help stop the virus spreading, hospital visits must be carried out as carefully as possible. You will not be allowed to visit if you have any symptoms of coronavirus.

The details of visiting restrictions will vary, so check the hospital website and contact the ward they are on before you visit.

Visits will usually be limited to one person at any time. Exceptions to this may be possible in certain circumstances where social distancing can be maintained and the clinical team agree. If someone is at end of life, visiting rules can be more relaxed to ensure that the needs of the patient and the family are met at such a difficult time. Ask the ward nurse about what is possible in these circumstances.

Visiting times may be staggered throughout the day to restrict the amount of people on the ward and you may only be able to stay for a short period of time. You will need to use hand sanitiser and wear protective equipment – staff will advise you on this. Wearing a face covering may distress the person and will certainly make it harder to communicate with them. It may help to wear a name label and think about your body language.

Sometimes people with severe symptoms of COVID-19 will be put into intensive care. This can make visits very difficult. Talk to the person even if you’re not sure they can hear you – someone may still hear even when they don’t respond, and it will help you feel connected. You may find our general advice on care in hospital helpful.

It may also be possible for you to call the person by phone, or speak and see them by a video call. If you want to do this, speak to the nursing staff about alternatives to visiting in person. 

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