Jennifer Meagher RN is the owner of Senior Life LLC, Advocates and Consultants. Meagher founded and oversees the Better Business Partners Serving Seniors. She is on the Alzheimer’s Advocacy Committee and has specialized in geriatrics since 1998. She is called on by doctors, attorneys, and financial advisors to care for their clients and their families. Contact Jennifer at www.SeniorLifeGCM.com.
“I Don't Trust Hospitals."
I read your letters every week. I was moved by the woman who worried whether her mother gets the right medications. I’m writing because I had such problems in the hospital with my father. We were at (name withheld) hospital and it seemed like anything that could go wrong, did go wrong. The recurrent theme was inaccurate information. I told them all about my father’s condition and his medications. When the next doctor came on duty, he had some of the information about his medication wrong. Then the doctor said he would order a new diuretic. The next time he got his medication, the diuretic wasn’t included. The nurse hunted all over but couldn’t find the order. She paged the doctor and he came up and wrote it. It went like that every day. I wondered who’s communicating with who. What if I wasn’t there? Do you have any comments?
First, thanks bunches for putting me on the spot. LOL. The problem is the back-up in emergency rooms, the shortage of doctors and nurses. And, if I’m being honest, it’s the impact technology has on our report system. We are relying too much in my opinion, on data entry, and not enough on checks and balances and team effort. In my day, we had team report to review all the clients on the unit. Today, “report” is between the nursing going off the shift and the nurse coming on the shift. It leaves too much room for something to get dropped. The doctors “round” each day and count on the report of the patient and the nurse. I know that the patient is not always a good historian. Again, (I’m showing my age) when I was a young nurse the doctors believed in a Rule of Five. This meant that you asked the same group of questions 5 times, because way too often, on the fifth try, the patient came up with something important that hadn’t been said before. I believe everyone is trying their best. I have two recommendations:
Patients: bring an advocate and/or be your own medical secretary. Keep track of your discussions with the team and the treatment plans. This is your checks and balance. We have entered a time where each of us must become much more involved in our care and communication than ever before. Each of us should not be a passive patient, we should be an integral part of our own care plan.
HOW TO TRACK YOUR OWN CARE
1. Keep an accurate health problem list for yourself including your current diagnoses as well as past surgeries, hospitalizations and resolved diagnoses. List your age or approximate date for each.
2. Also keep an accurate list of your current sensations and discomforts. Examples: pain, bowel or urine problems, sleep or appetite problems, etc.) If you find yourself in the hospital, review this list and update it daily. Leave enough space to indicate what the treatment was for each and how it worked.
3. Keep an up to date medication record of what you are taking. Hang on to your outdated records that demonstrate what medications you've been on in the past, and list why the doctor stopped that medication.
4. List your allergies (the medications that cause rashes and difficulty breathing or swelling) and sensitivities (the medications that cause diarrhea or nausea, etc.) prominently across the top of your medication list. Make sure to indicate your specific symptoms with each.
5. List your doctors, their specialty and their contact information. When you are in the hospital, keep a record of what doctors visited daily and their recommendations. Review this until you are certain the recommendations were met.
6. Think about your needs after the hospital. Will you need to see a specialist? Are you wondering how you will manage your treatments at home? Is it possible you will need rehab or home care? Talk with the medical team, the nurse and the social worker/ discharge coordinator about these concerns.
7. Make sure all your questions are answered before you leave the hospital. Make sure you have someone else listening in to your discharge instructions.
8. Keep a wellness calendar. What tests are being done and when? Did you get the results? When is your next doctor’s appointment? When will you do the instruction from the doctor (to get bloodwork done or have an xray or other test or to get results, etc. ) Mark it in your calendar. Review it.
Things are changing. Your health, it turns out, is your responsibility. And, to the side, when you become this involved in your own health, you actually do better and achieve better results.
Brain Workout Trivia
In what country is the Taj Mahal (the mausoleum, not the casino) located?
The correct answer is B. The Taj Mahal mausoleum was built of white marble in Agra, India by emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife. It is widely recognized as one of the most beautiful buildings in the world.