Most all of us will end up experiencing at least one hospitalization—especially as we get older. Any hospitalization can be disorienting, but knowing a little about how to prepare and how the system operates may help us reduce the likelihood that the communication ‘ball’ gets dropped or that a medical error occurs. Reading books written by doctors who specialize in care for older adults has been eye-opening. One that helped me understand age-biases in medicine was Elderhood by Louise Aronson, M.D.
One of the books I am currently reading is Treat Me, Not My Age: A Doctor’s Guide to Getting the Best Care as You or a Loved One Gets Older by Mark Lachs, M.D. This book offers a wide range of practical advice when dealing with the medical community. One chapter, “No Place for Sick People,” was especially helpful this week as a very dear, older gentleman friend experienced his first hospitalization.
Advanced Preparation and Sufficient Communication
Because of what I had learned from reading Dr. Lachs’ book, I was able to help assist my friend by preparing a list of his medicines prior to admission into a hospital. To this list, I added the names of his doctors and their phone numbers. I also brought him one of his favorite books and other personal items so that he would have something familiar with him.
After two days, my friend complained that his whole body ached from laying in bed for so long. He wanted to get up and move. He also wanted to know why people kept waking him up when he was desperate to get a little sleep. And, he wondered if his regular doctor would get a copy of tests related findings.
Information about my friend’s concerns was addressed in Lachs’ book. For example, knowing that it is important to get out of bed and walk as soon as it is safe helped my friend advocate for the care that is best for him. My friend was able to get his needs met and does feel he is getting very good care. His willingness to communicate and get answers from the right people has made his hospital stay more comfortable.
Other than when my first child was born, I have not experienced a hospital stay. In my mind, I would like to believe that I will somehow manage to always play the role of hospital visitor but never the patient. However, it is most likely that I, like most everyone else, will end up in a hospital bed at some point.
Knowing a little about how to navigate the hospital system, who to talk to, what to ask, and how to advocate for ourselves can lead to a more positive experience.