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Loved One In the Hospital? How to Be Their Advocate

If someone you love is in the hospital, this can be a bewildering, stressful, and painful time. And although ideally everyone in the hospital would receive the same level of excellent care, this is not always the case. Many hospitals are understaffed, and care providers sometimes struggle with giving the best treatment to everyone. Those who have a dedicated advocate at their side tend to do better in these conditions.

If you have a loved one in the hospital, and you want to make sure they get the best level of care possible, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Keep a list of medications

Doctors should know about all the medications your loved one is currently taking. For some people, that can be a long list—and your loved one may have difficulty recounting this information on their own, particularly if their illness or injury leaves them disoriented. You should keep a list of all the prescription and over-the-counter medicines, dietary supplements, and other medications your loved one takes regularly. Keep doctors informed about this list so they don’t prescribe anything that might interact negatively with something the patient is already taking.

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Inform everyone about allergies and implants

If your loved one has any allergic reactions, particularly to certain medications, their doctors should know. Same with any existing implants—these can be dangerous if your loved one is in an MRI machine, for example.

Know your loved one’s medications and doses—and check prescriptions. Medical errors where the doctor writes the wrong amount of dosage on a prescription slip are more common than you’d think. When your doctor writes a prescription for your loved one, be sure you know the dosage. Check the prescription to be sure it’s the same amount as the doctor told you. And be sure the handwriting is legible—if you have difficulty reading it, so might the pharmacist.

Also, when at the pharmacy, be sure the medication you pick up is the right drug in the right amount. Errors in type of drug provided are surprisingly common.

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Ask a lot of questions

Whenever someone prescribes medication for your loved one, be sure you understand everything you need to about this medication. Questions to ask include:

  • What is this medication for?
  • How long is the patient supposed to take it?
  • Are there any side effects? How likely are they?
  • What are the symptoms of side effects, and what should I do if I see them?
  • Can this medication be taken safely with other medications, dietary supplements, or other medication?
  • Are there any foods, drinks, or activities that should be avoided when my loved one is on this medication?

Choose a hospital with experience

Whenever possible, choose a hospital where the staff have considerable experience treating your loved one’s illness.

Ask about hand-washing

Infections are spread much more easily when health providers forget to wash their hands—and this is not uncommon. If you can, stay with your loved one and ask any health care provider that provides treatment if they’ve washed their hands.

Be sure you understand about ongoing treatments

Your loved one may be discharged with various medical devices, prescriptions, and treatment plans. Be sure you understand how to use any devices required, learn about medicines, and understand how long the recovery period is expected to be.

Having a loved one in the hospital is never easy. Being involved in your loved one’s care, however, can help him or her recover faster—and get better treatment. Stay informed about your loved one’s treatment, medications, recovery expectations, and more—and be sure your doctors are informed on everything they need to know about the patient’s health. If you do, your loved one is likely to receive better care.