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Don’t Have a Health Care Advocate? Better get one!

A friend recently had spine surgery that took 5+ hours. After regaining consciousness, she found herself in the recovery unit…for the next 26 hours! Groggy from the anesthetic and not knowing whom to talk to, she languished there until a friend arrived and raised hell. She subsequently learned that private rooms were available throughout the 26 hours, but somehow the Recovery Unit staff wasn’t aware of any. When they finally wheeled her to a private room, she waited another hour for the room to be cleaned.

That’s not all: This same individual was informed that she would be discharged days before she felt ready to return home.  Firm words from another friend to a relatively senior staff member got her stay lengthened for four days so that she would receive physical and occupational therapy.

When she was discharged, the discharge doctor failed to SIGN a prescription for a pain medicine. She didn’t know that until she tried to fill it at a local pharmacy. Naturally the pharmacy rejected it. When she phoned the hospital to get the prescription signed, she ended up in what she termed “voice-mail hell.’’

The morning after her release she awoke in a pool of discharge from her surgical wound. She took an Uber back to the same hospital’s emergency room where she waited to be seen for another seven hours. After she saw the ER staff, she learned to her horror that the hospital had failed to arrange for a nurse to visit her at home to change her dressings and ensure the wound was healing properly. Less than 24 hours after her release, and nearly ten hours since her return to the ER, she was readmitted.

Mind you, this is a highly regarded Washington DC hospital where everything that could go wrong went wrong.

Before going to an ER or entering a hospital for surgery and especially when getting discharged, try to recruit a relative or friend to be your advocate. Most patients can’t wait to be discharged and may still be semi-sedated. Your discharge instructions can be complicated and medication plan confusing. You need someone to review this information.

If this is impossible, see whether your hospital has a Patient Advocate and get her contact information.

“Sig Cohen is an elder mediator and co-author (with Judge (ret.) Carolyn M. Parr) of Love’s Way: Living Peacefully With Your Family As Your Parents Age. (Hendrickson Publisher).  His presentations focus on ”A Positive Way Forward for Families.”

Sig Cohen

Solutions Through Compassionate Communication

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