There are people in the hospital with the title of Patient Advocate. If you have a problem or a conflict with anyone or with any policy in the hospital then you can see the advocate.
They will assist you in dealing with the issue and may be able to present solutions that you weren’t aware of. In this respect they are similar to an Ombudsman in a nursing home.
However, the best advocacy for your parents will come from you. Here is how caregivers can be the best possible Patient Advocate for their parents…
Get to know the nurses at the nurses’ station. Introduce yourself and choose one or two family members to act as a liaison between the nursing staff and the family. In this way, you are able to get an update on your parent’s condition without making a nuisance of yourself at the nurses’ station.
Can You Help?
Ask the nurses how you can help out. Some examples would be getting fluids (drinks), taking them to therapy via wheelchair, etc… Of course, any activity should be safe enough for your parents to do and in addition safe enough for you to perform.
Educate yourself on your parents condition so that you can make informed decisions with the doctors so that you can make informed, intelligent decisions with the medical staff when decisions need to be made.
See The Doctor
Do not be afraid of insisting to see a doctor…or at least getting them on the phone. And being that many doctors make their rounds early in the morning, find out when the doctor is typically in and make a point of being there. Burn a personal day if you have to…or if you can’t set a time to meet them or at least time for a phone call.
If you disagree with the doctor or the insurance plan’s decisions to withhold treatment (ie: being denied physical therapy), speak with a member of the hospital’s medical or ethics committee. With this representative you can work to appeal the decision.
Reverse An Early Discharge
If the Medicare HMO refuses a procedure or admission, or you think your parents may be getting discharged early, contact the Patient Advocate at the hospital and find out the steps you need to take to reverse your decision. Every HMO must provide you a number to call to appeal a decision, so get that number. Sometimes, just making the inquiry can get an extra day or two that is needed.
Get To Know The RN’s
There is a major nursing shortage in the country, and hospitals have been forced to use temporary agencies that send in RN’s who might not be familiar with all of the procedures or a hospital’s routine.
Hospitals might also use nursing assistants who are not as well trained as RN’s to recognize situations such as troubling symptoms after a surgery. So find out who the RN is that is caring for your parents and try to “make conversation” with them…finding out who they are, how long they have worked there, etc…
Following these steps will help you move into a position of being a patient advocate for your parents and getting them the care they need and deserve.