Health care isn't what it used to be. Having just spent a week guarding my mother during her hospitalization, I have a few suggestions for the less medically experienced:
a) You have to have an advocate. Really sick patients can't do it alone.
b) Have a family member* stay as close to 24-7 as possible.
*This should not just be any family member. You need someone with common sense, who can stay relatively calm and pleasant, rational and assertive. Tall order, I know. But if you are angry and abrasive, you will drive staff away or anger them, resulting in worse care. Human nature.
c) The biggest problem we encountered was lack of communication between shifts, and the lack of continuity of the staffing. You can provide that vital link of continuity, alerting staff to something that appears new or alarming.
d) You or your advocate need to ask what each medicine being administered is. If it is something new or unexpected, insist on understanding what it is for before taking it.
e) Ask about blood draws, too--especially those that are painful, like blood gases. Request that the blood draws be coordinated and, if possible, be limited to one or 2 times per day.
g) Remember-you can refuse labs or treatments. You want to be sure that the reasons for your refusal are rational and are recorded accurately in the progress notes, so that you are not perceived as just being difficult.
f) If you know your loved one is not normally confused or agitated and anxious, and there is a change in behavior, insist that there be an attempt to find a "physical" or metabolic reason.
I heard repeatedly that mom was "anxious" and that this made her short of breath. In fact, her blood oxygen was very low and she felt like she was drowning, making her understandably anxious. Understanding the source of the problem is critically important.
More to follow as I recover from being a guard dog. . .
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