How can you help a loved one who is heading to the hospital or in the hospital?
Below are some suggestions that will provide you with confidence and security that your loved one will be well cared for and that you will receive regular communications from their healthcare team.
Compile a Medication List
Please make sure that your loved one has updated their medication and supplements list. Given advances in electronic medical record keeping, most doctor’s offices and hospitals automatically download a list of medications that have been prescribed to a patient. Unfortunately, most of the time this list is not accurate, may span years, and includes medications or supplements that have been discontinued. Additionally, it may be helpful to bring the physical medication bottles to the hospital, in case the hospital does not have a particular medication on formulary.
Establish a Baseline Functional Status
If your loved one is a senior and is acutely ill or is heading into surgery, it is imperative that their baseline functional status is documented and shared with hospital nurses and physicians. Acute illness, anesthesia, pain medications, and hospitalization itself can alter a patient’s mental status, rendering them a shadow of who they were just a few days earlier. Unfortunately, it becomes easy for hospital caregivers to assume that if a patient is bedridden and confused, that this is not too far from their baseline. One helpful idea is to share a video of your loved one with hospital staff that displays their pre-hospital function status. Pictures and videos are priceless!
Be sure to share your contact information with your loved one’s nurse and ask to be notified when a physician rounds on your loved one or if there is any change in health status. Nurses serve as the essential link between doctors and a patient’s family, and they are able to share important details such as timing of procedures or discharge. Nurses are also able to assist you in communication with your loved one, in the case assistance is needed. You can usually call the nurses’ station and be patched through to the nurse on duty at any time.
Talk to Your Primary Care Doctor
Finally…. keep your primary care doctor in the loop. That person serves as a liaison between you and the hospital. Even though most hospitals use hospitalists (doctors who only work in the inpatient setting), hospitalists value the insight a primary care doctor brings to a patient’s care. The importance of having your primary care doctor aware even of routine or planned hospitalizations cannot be overstated.
We at Lifetime Internal Medicine feel strongly about our roles as key members of our patients’ health care team. When our patients go to the hospital, we do our best to routinely communicate with their attending physician, nurse, and any key members of the hospital care team. It is especially helpful with discharge planning and transitioning home, because minor hiccups can occur after discharge that need prompt attention, and we want to follow-up closely to continue care.