Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tip #10 For The Best Hospital Care: Try Not To Be Alone ~ Insider Tips on How to Get the BEST Medical Care in the Hospital ~

Today we are concluding the series on How To Get The BEST Medical Care In The Hospital:  Insider Tips!  As always, this post is written to "you" but it can be equally applied to any family member or loved one. 

Tip#10:  Try Not to Be Alone!

The best piece of advice that I can give you is if you are sick enough to stay more than one night at the hospital, try to never be alone for long periods of time.  Try to have family members, friends, etc with you as close to around the clock as possible.  Don't have them come visit in a big group--that is a waste because their visits are more helpful if they spread out and give you coverage for longer periods of time.  Have them visit in small trickles throughout the day (and night for that matter).  

One way to spread a stream of visitors out is to explain the importance of shifts to everyone, have a point person volunteer and actually set up an email list or formal schedule for people.  This is what my own family did when my family member was in the hospital last month (the event that inspired me to write this series!) Unfortunately we as a family have had many hospitalizations & over time, creating a visitor scheduling system has become routine.

By making a formal schedule, it allowed my family member not to be alone & allowed each of us family members to manage our personal lives & keep working.  Important caveat--the family should actively encourage your primary caretaker (husband, daughter/son, parent) to try to minimize the time they need to spend at the hospital.  While you are in the hospital, it is an important opportunity to give your spouse or child or parent a good rest before you come home & they will be responsible for your care.  So ask for help from your church, synagogue, mosque, spiritual center, social club or network of friends instead.  Try to arrange to have someone looking in on you about every 2-3 hours.  

I recommend that you keep a notebook in the room that all the visitors should use to write down important things--
like what doctors come into the room, any procedures that you get taken to, or anything nursing says that would be important to pass on to the next visitor (i.e.--nurse:  we need to keep an eye on her constipation.  You write down: f/u constipation.  Then the next person looks at the notes and sees they should remind you to ask the nurse about the plan for reducing your constipation).  My father has frequently been very ill--I have a large family & we practice this technique when he is in the hospital since we literally take turns sitting bedside & the notebook allows us to share what the doctor said on the first person's visiting shift so the last person's visiting shift knows what is going on! 

The notebook should have all important info clipped to it inside the front cover--like who your doctors are AND your Medical Info Sheet that we discussed here in Tip #4!

If you have a large enough family or friends and you feel comfortable asking, I encourage you to see if its possible to have one of them take turns spending the night.  

If you can't get anyone, and you are pretty sick than hiring a private-duty aide to sit with you during the night is worth the investment if you can afford it 

If you are a family member caring for an elderly patient susceptible to dementia or confusion than I can't encourage you strongly enough to hire someone if you possibly can!! That aide however is not paid to watch TV--they are paid to let you sleep quietly, check on how you are doing, re-orient you to reality calmly and GENTLY if you are confused & be the family's eyes and ears.  Sometimes it is not possible to have someone stay over but I would lobby hard (AND BE VERY VERY NICE when asking) if it isn't usual hospital policy.

Remind everyone that you need to rest and your visitor point-person should emphasize this as well.  A hospital is for healing, not a party.  Please be respectful of other patient's needs as well. The point person should suggest that people bring a book or magazine to read, a laptop, a musical device with headphones, etc so you don't need to talk for most of the visit.  While they are in your room they shouldn't be talking on their cell phone or making a lot of noise.  Their purpose is to give you the gift of their time to help staff caring for you be able to perform to the best of their abilities.   

***KEY:  Do not allow visitors to interrupt the hospital routine.  When the nurse comes in to give you your meds, change your wound dressing, give you an enema or any other indelicate thing that your really don't want your family or friends to see, do NOT tell the nurse to "come back later."  You have to be a teammate remember--keep them on schedule & it will be to YOUR benefit-- you'd be surprised how many things about your care get missed as they are passed on to the next nursing shift if the nurse wasn't able to execute your care on schedule!***

See here for questions that your visitors should remind you to ask staff EVERY DAY & things to bring to staff attention.  Always remind who ever comes that it is critical they behave politely and respectfully towards staff members (see my post Tip #8).  To behave otherwise WILL reflect on you and affect your care. Remind your visitors that the staff is very busy and has other patients in addition to you.  If the visitor can safely & comfortably do a task for you--i.e. get you a washcloth and help you wash your face, pass you your urinal & dispose of the results, etc--than they will endear themselves to the staff to no end! 

That said however, don't let staff disappear on you just because you have someone in your room (it happens sometimes, especially if you are a family member & a healthcare person like me or my husband).  If you have waited a reasonable amount of time for a nurse/tech to respond (15 mins or so) and no one has come, then send your visitor to the main desk to ask for assistance. (Visitor Tip:  just standing at the nurses station can be quite a motivator for the administrative assistant or other nurses--wait there in full view until someone comes to assist your loved one..)  In fact, I recommend sending your visitor to the desk for help first instead of you buzzing your call light, but either method is ok. 

Ok!  This concludes this Tip AND this series!!  I hope that this series will help you and your loved ones get outstanding care & make you feel empowered with understanding about how hospitals work.  

It has been a pleasure to share this information with you--please update me in the comments if you have used these techniques & let me know whether they work for you & your family!!

Here are all the previous posts in this series:  

Tip #1: Be a Teammate & Tip #2: Be concise & organized: http://happyrehabdoc.blogspot.com/2011/11/how-to-get-best-medical-care-insider.html
Tip #4:  Know Yourself--How to Make a Medical Info Sheet:  http://happyrehabdoc.blogspot.com/2011/11/tip-4-key-things-you-need-to-know-about.html
Tip #6:  Know the Role Everyone Plays in the Health Care Team: http://happyrehabdoc.blogspot.com/2011/11/tip-6-know-role-that-each-person-plays.html
Tip #9: PAY ATTENTION!! http://happyrehabdoc.blogspot.com/2011/12/tip-9-pay-attention-more-insider-tips.html

Coming Up:
  • SuperImmunity for Kids ~Part 2~!
  • A Truly Healthy New Year
  • Treating Pain with Food--more thoughts
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  1. As an RN with 22+ years of hospital experience, I want to commend you on this health care series. It is concise and very accurate. If all my patients did as you suggest, I would be one very happy nurse! I've also been on the other side as the wife of a terminally ill husband. I spent 4 months practically living in the hospital. I did as much as I could do to assist his nurses and they were all very appreciative. I agree that "Be Nice" is probably the most important advice. Thank you for your kind words regarding nurses! We don't often hear it from patients, let alone doctors.

  2. Thank you very much!! It really is powerful to receive praise from a fellow health care provider! Particularly one of my nursing colleagues because you all know the hospital better than anyone!!

    I think my husband will laugh when he reads that you said it was concise--I have a tendency to overwrite but he had the brilliant idea to break this potentially two post series into ten!! I'm so glad you liked it and that you thought it was accurate!

    Be nice is the first thing I told my family when we had a family member in the hospital last month! I don't think they understood at first what the big deal was all about but once they saw the difference in care they were converts!

    I'm very sorry to hear about your husband--I'm sure that being a nurse yourself he received excellent, loving care both in and out of the hospital.

    And of course I have kind words for nurses! Without you guys I honestly don't know where we would be! I realize that many people don't appreciate what you do--if they could just spend 20 mins in your shoes, I think that they would rapidly see the light! Thank you again for all your years of hospital service! I hope you keep coming back to the blog and commenting because I would love to hear your point of view!!:-)


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