Last Wednesday I was walking into yoga class and my cell rang. It was my husband calling to tell me that he was checking himself into the hospital. He said this like he was ordering lunch. I think it was to somehow not alarm me. But when your husband calls and delivers this news, it’s difficult not to be scared; especially if you knew my husband: he doesn’t like doctors or hospitals one little bit! The incident he was checking himself in for is not new to us. He’s been having the same issue for a couple years now, but it always comes out of the blue and it’s very unsettling. And to make matters worse, he waited 12 hours before doing anything about it.
So off I go to hospital. The next three days were spent with doctors (a whole team) running tests and a minor procedure. A week later, he is fine – for now. I’m once again reminded of how fragile our lives are. I’m reminded of how easy it is to take our health for granted. I’m also reminded of the importance of not living in panic or crisis mentality, because when a loved one is in the hospital, you must be an advocate. There simply is no time to be wimpy. Hospitals are VERY busy places and if you just sit quietly in a chair waiting for someone to do something, it’s easy to get lost in the system. So you must become Empowered and you must learn to be an Advocate! It’s the only way things will get done.
Being an Empowered Advocate does not mean that you get in people’s faces and make a lot of unreasonable demands. It does not mean that you become a pain in the neck for the doctors and nurses. Becoming an Empowered Advocate means that:
- You are on your best behavior because you are clear about your desired outcome.
- Doctors, nurses and hospital staff are working under difficult conditions because there is over-crowding and they can only do so many things at one time.
- You cannot yell orders or demand answers. Stay calm, clear and resolved in your desired outcome.
- You must remember that nurses cannot give you any medical answers or results of tests. It’s the law and they are not allowed to do this. What nurses can do, however, is page doctors and work with you to communicate your needs to others.
- Empowered Advocates stay focused on the mission: Comfort, Information and Care. When speaking to a doctor stay focused; write down any and all questions you want answered; and be as clear and succinct in your communication as possible. Try to remove emotion from the conversation.
- It is your responsibility to find out when the doctor makes rounds and plan to be present during these hours. It is the surest way to get answers.
- If you don’t understand something the doctor has said; ask for clarification. Often medical professionals speak in terms that lay people don’t understand. Just ask to have something clarified.
- If a doctor seems rushed or in a hurry, don’t take this personally. Look the doctor in the eye and say something like, “ I know how busy you are, and I promise not to take too much of your time, but I’m hoping you can answer my questions so we can understand what is going on with (fill in the name).
- Bring comforting items from home to help your loved one feel better. It makes a huge difference.
10. And finally, you must take care of yourself. You must find ways to stay healthy by eating properly and getting sleep. It is a good idea to journal about your feelings before turning off the light. You will be of no use to your loved one if you are exhausted and unable to think straight.
The next time you find yourself at the hospital, try these tips and let me know what happens. I am very grateful that my husband is home.
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