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Who Takes Care of the Caregiver? Part 2

Bonnie Friedman - December 14, 2016 11:21 AM

“What if I don’t have any family to be with me at the hospital?”

 A caregiver’s life is dedicated to the well-being of a loved one. But what if the caregiver becomes the one in need?

Hospital patients are rarely in any potion to advocate effectively for their own needs. Flat on their backs, sick and weak, they need someone to speak up on their behalf to make sure they get the care they need.

Ideally, a family member is the best person for the job. Just because you have no family nearby doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. There are things you can do to help yourself in advance and at the hospital, if you become the patient.  Part 1 of this blog provided tips for advance planning.  Part 2 addresses additional steps to consider while in the hospital.

At the Hospital

If you have done your research, you will be better prepared for whatever time you may have to spend in the hospital. If you find yourself there, here are some steps you can take:

1.    Talk to the bed nurse about your situation, your worries and concerns. Let the nurse know you have no family nearby and feel alone. Ask for as much extra time and support as possible. See if the nurse can be at your bedside when your doctor comes in to talk with you, especially during rounds.

2.    Speak to a hospital social worker about your concerns as well. Ask if there are resources in the hospital or community to provide you with support and assistance. Be as specific as you can about what weighs on your mind.

3.    Request a meeting with the hospital’s patient advocate or ombudsman, letting this person know you are on your own and need extra support and assistance.  Ask if there is someone who can take notes for you during doctor visits and follow up to make sure all your questions are answered.

4.    Check to see if the hospital has an ethics committee that can help you with especially difficult decisions you may have to make regarding your care. Representatives on the committee may be professionals or volunteers with special expertise and training.

5.    Make sure your nurses and doctors know your preferences regarding end-of-life decisions; make arrangements for legal documents such as an advance directive or medical power of attorney to be delivered, if they are not already on file at the hospital. Don’t forget to provide names and phone numbers, if you can, of individuals you want notified of your status.

6.    Ask your hospitalist to contact your primary care physician to discuss your case; then follow-up with your doctor for added advice. If the hospitalist doesn’t make the call, reverse the order: Call your physician and ask them to call the hospital.

Taking these steps may not be a full substitute for having a family member by your side, but they can make a big difference in your quality of care and your peace of mind.

Bonnie Friedman is a speaker, blogger and author on healthcare advocacy. Her book, Hospital Warrior: How to Get the Best Care for Your Loved One, is available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. More information is on her website: www.hospitalwarrior.com.

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