I was taught that the way of progress is neither swift nor easy.
– Marie Curie – Physicist and Chemist –
As a medical provider having accompanied a friend to the hospital today for a routine procedure, here are some observations and tips. We can always get a better understanding, even if we’ve been around the block a few times. Learning is a forever-process.
**Because most people may not have an idea what is going on in the hospital, have an advocate or family member with you to help you ask questions, to question what might be going on (if it feels wrong, it may well be), to speak up on the patient’s behalf (maybe you’re the one who will potentially change an adverse outcome or maybe you are not intimidated by the physician), or to help you remember the discharge instructions or something the doctor said.
**It is beneficial for people of any age to have a living will and a medical power of attorney. What would you want done for you or on your behalf if you could not speak for yourself? Make the decisions before you can’t make them.
**Find out in advance about what to expect as far as what is needed after discharge, such as not being able to drive for 24 hours, having medications ordered and filled prior to the procedure (so you’re not running around afterwards to take care of this), and making arrangements for any additional help you might need.
**Find out in advance what the charges will be for the procedure, surgery, test, or appointment. Know your insurance benefits; it’s a contract between you and the insurance company. Make sure you get things in writing. It’s an eye-opening experience when a patient is told they will owe a big fee at the time of the services, and who is going to back out at that time? Planned procedures are just that – planned. Costs should be discussed, and patients have the options to make some decisions around this issue. Most people have limited budgets, and today’s out-of- pocket costs are sometimes cost-prohibitive to patients and families.
**If you’re the advocate or family member, a procedure that is planned for a one-hour stay can turn into 5 or 6 if the doctor had an emergency or if there are other delays. Be prepared to either be there, or talk to the staff about leaving and being available to come back to be there when it is time to leave. Bring work, food, a book, or anything to stay busy and to pass the time without feeling like it was “wasted.” Take a walk around the hospital campus. The person you’re accompanying will likely feel terrible for the wait. Let them know that you were productive and that it was welcome time to stay focused or get something done.
**If you’re there with someone who’s older, give them time. They usually process things a bit slower, and being in the hospital can be stressful and anxiety-provoking. The same goes for someone who’s overwhelmed or stressed about their diagnosis or condition. Give them a break with simple instructions and avoid medical jargon if you happen to be knowledgeable about the condition etc.
**Unless they ask for you to do this, try not to speak for them or over them. They have to have some control. Don’t be the one to take it. Ask for permission to help them.
**Be ready for anything – I had a lovely conversation with an 86-year old volunteer who had been working there for over 16 years. Her husband had just joined the volunteer team after a stroke — she was orienting him, and hearing them interact was hilarious. Let them yak your ear off – I think we need to treasure our seniors’ stories or they will be lost forever.
What suggestions do you all have for either helping a friend or family member, or for making it easy on the caregiver or advocate?
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