There are few things more stressful than having a loved one in the hospital. Not only is he/she far from the comfort and security of home, the medical environment can be confusing, intimidating, and frustrating. You and they may feel vulnerable and helpless in the bustle and the stream of doctors, nurses, and other hospital workers who are treating and caring for your family member or friend. Yet, how do you know the care they’re receiving is the right care and that nothing is amiss or overlooked? By shifting your focus from being a passive visitor to a proactive advocate, you can help ensure your loved one is receiving the best care possible. And, no, you are not an inconvenience, but a valuable part of your loved one’s care team. Here are a few things you can do to get empowered and be a caring voice for relative or friend when they are at their most vulnerable.
Know the Care Team. Make a point of introducing yourself to the charge nurse, physician, and other care professionals. Understand the various healthcare professionals who interact with your loved one and their roles. Ask for their business cards. Be cordial and warm and share a little about your relationship to your loved one and about your family. Establishing those friendly relationships now can be invaluable in being heard later.
Ask Questions. Get informed and make curiosity your constant companion. Don’t be afraid to ask the nurse in charge of your loved one’s care questions about the treatment plan. Are there any dietary restrictions? What about activity and visitors? Even medical professionals will tell you the care process is complicated and full of various functions and roles. Pay attention to which procedures are being performed and which medications are being administered. Jot down notes and names so you can help piece together the who, what, and how for yourself and your loved one.
Be Present. It helps your family member or friend to know someone is there, especially at key times (just before surgery and post-recovery, for example). Your presence alone will be a tremendous comfort. Don’t think you have to fill the space with endless talk but do listen carefully for their concerns and fears.
Clarify. Help your loved one by asking clarifying questions if there is information or a term being shared you don’t understand. Chances are it may also be confusing to them. It is vital there is nothing lost in translation when it comes to care protocols and the decision-making process.
Speak Up. You know your loved one better than anyone else there. If you have any concerns, don’t be afraid to speak up, however minor you may think it is. Make it your job to ensure everything is being done for your loved one’s comfort and care. Don’t be afraid to be “wrong” or seen as a bother. There is nothing so important as your loved one’s care.
When you are empowered and comfortable with the role of advocate, you not only help your loved one, but can have a positive impact on the overall healthcare process.