Friday, July 29, 2011

Save The Company Time and Money

Family Medical Leave and Patient Safety

Betty needs to take a few days a month off from work to take her husband of 30 years to doctor’s appointments and for procedures following his stroke earlier this year.  Under the Family Medical Leave Act she is entitled to time away from work.   

Supportive of Betty, her boss gives her the time, no questions asked, but the company she works for  suffers when Betty is away.  What exactly is Betty doing for her husband when she takes him to the hospital for tests and procedures?  When I asked her, she says she drives him to the appointments and asks the doctor questions.

What Betty or her the supervisor at her job don’t realize, is that there are many things she can do to help ensure that her husband receives the best care possible and help speed up her time back to work – ultimately saving her from using sick time or losing pay and save her company money.
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles family members to take up to 12 weeks off from work to care for a sick family member.  But the family is not given the skills that can actually help produce better results speeding up recovery time and shorten lost work days.  Very often they are just the driver for the patient or what I call, the coat holder, doing nothing more than holding the coat for the patient, maybe ask a few questions, or write some notes.

If Betty took a brief training course in Family Centered Patient Advocacy, she would have some of the skills to make sure everyone who touched her husband washed their hands, cutting down the risk of infection.  She would learn to carry antibacterial wipes to clean door knobs and anything her husband, or others touched that may carry germs.

She would be confident to take all her husband’s medication, vitamins and herbs to the doctor or pharmacist for review to check for hidden side effects or interactions.

Betty may learn to ask about support groups for stroke patients who would help her, and him through the maze of paperwork increasing her chances to get back to work faster.

She would feel empowered to ask the doctor to repeat himself if she didn’t understand instructions avoiding a missed appointment, missed dose of medication or the improper use of equipment.

Betty would know to look for risks of falls so her husband would be safe from injury at home and in the hospital.  If he were to fall it could easily cause a delay in her return to work.  

Betty would learn to take notes when the doctor is speaking and ask the doctor to come back so they can think of more questions before they leave, possibly avoiding another day of missed work to visit the doctor or make phone calls for corrected information.

She would learn to ask for forms before she has to sign them so she can read them.

And finally, Betty would encourage a friend, family member, someone from her church, synagogue or a neighbor who doesn’t work to take the advocacy training too so Betty can go back to work and not be afraid that no one else could care for him.

Wouldn’t that be wonderful for her company?

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