Being an advocate for yourself or your loved one during a hospital stay
The hospital is never a place that anyone wants to stay, especially when the stay turns into multiple days. One can become frustrated if he or she feels as if there is a lack of communication from staff. Here are some tips on how to stay informed during your medical stay and to make sure that your healthcare providers get the information that they need to ensure your best plan of care.
Before Any Stay
Establish a medical power of attorney in the event that you will not be able to make any decisions for yourself. Have a copy of advanced directives if you have one.
Prepare for hospital stays
- medication list that includes the name, dose and frequency
- List of medical conditions including surgeries and dates of surgeries
Multiple people will ask for this information. Some hospital documentation systems are not streamlined, so this information might not be transmitted from the emergency department to the unit that you will be admitted to.
Know how your insurance covers for outpatient services in-case you are placed under observation status. Observation is a period of usually 24 to 72 hours. Patients are admitted under observation if physicians believe their condition can be treated within this time frame. If diagnostics, labs or change in condition proves otherwise then there will be a change to inpatient status.
During your stay
Ask to see medical files (history and physical to ensure accuracy, do this with your doctor’s offices as well
The assigned physician will ask you what your code status is. This question is asked to everyone so that the staff knows a patient’s wishes about resuscitation if cardiac arrest or respiratory cessation were to occur. Have a copy of advanced directives if you have one. Unless you indicate otherwise, everyone is assumed to be a FULL CODE (complete CPR and resuscitation measures).
Know what is going on within the hospital so you know what to expect
Know hospital hours: Most schedules are 7am to 7pm (some are 6:45 am to 6:45pm). Nurses work 12.5 hour shifts. Change of shift occurs at 7 am and 7pm. These times are busy, as the nurses will be getting report for approximately 30minutes to 45 minutes. If you anticipate that you will need something at this time try to ask ahead of time, but if no one comes right away, unfortunately this could be why.
Always be in the know. Ask the nurses and doctors to explain the plan of care
Delegate point of contact to one family member who can then share this information with others (this is usually the medical power of attorney
Tips to know:
Elderly individuals with even minor dementia can and most often times become increasingly confused during hospital stays
UTI’s can cause change in mental status as well as weakness in the elderly population
For safety reasons, if your family member is confused try to arrange for someone to stay with them during their hospital stay, especially at nights when confusion tends to increase. Some hospitals might have staffing issues with trying to find a sitter