Saturday, April 3, 2021

So, You Think You are Helpful


Now that there is a COVID-related policy in many hospitals and nursing homes that families can’t be with their loved ones, I’m going to touch on a topic that may make many people angry – but I expect that, deep down inside, many of you will agree.  Maybe, just maybe, you aren’t the best person to support a loved one in the hospital.

It is often assumed by family members that they need to be there to support their sick loved one who is hospitalized. That’s not always the case. I have been with people who are hospitalized and have been asked to keep a husband or wife away. They may be bossy, loud and feel it is their job to demand everything their family member wants or needs without thinking of the nurse’s position or the other patients.

You may just imagine hearing a father raising his voice to a nurse: “I said, my daughter needs her pain medication!”  There is no reason to think a nurse doesn’t want to get a patient pain medication. Yelling at a nurse usually doesn’t help.

A chatty family member or friend who thinks a patient wants to be entertained instead of sleeping can often not only aggravate the patient, but also roommates who need to rest. If you are visiting the patient, have you discussed how you might be helpful?  When the patient says “I want to ask the doctor or nurses about………….” grab a notebook and start writing these questions, thoughts and ideas so when the doctor comes in, you have the questions, and any new symptoms, ready. Will a visiting family member be polite and check medications,
answer questions to the nurse if you’re resting? Will they repeat back instructions, get information in writing, and work on the discharge early in the care plan? Will they ask who each person entering the room is, and why they are there? Will they make sure staff check a patient’s ID and have the correct patient?  Will they wipe down doorknobs and the TV remote and bed rail after someone touches them? You may be reading in other blog posts or articles that the patient should be doing this, but that’s not always the case and they may feel that being their own advocate can be confrontational. It can be, and that goes for the family too. Practicing to be a caregiver, support person or advocate is important to be good at what you do.  There is more to this than just being there.

I have spent thousands of hours with patients and their family members in the hospital which is why I believe that training that the Pulse Center for Patient Safety Education & Advocacy provides is crucial to anyone who will be a “guest” of a patient.  When you hear someone say that they got what their loved one needed because they are a great advocate and yelled at everyone until they were heard, think again.