We were asked to put together a list of tips for seniors and their family caregivers that they could use when having to go to a hospital. There are more detailed lists out there but these are the main items
Before You Have to Go
Pick a hospital (within the insurance network) that your loved one is familiar with and that their primary physician can practice in. Keep in mind freestanding ERs are not the same as hospital ERs. Seniors have health conditions that could be complex and they might not be equipped at these type of facilities.
Schedule Surgery Early In the Week
You don’t always have the luxury to schedule surgeries, but if you did, hospitals have more staff and more doctors and nurses available during the work week and between 9AM to 5PM.
Germs Are Everywhere
Remember this! (Wash in and Wash out) A Hospital is a germy place. Have everyone that enters the room sanitize their hands before they come in and before they leave. Don’t count on a hospital to sanitize everything.
Ask nurses if you can be a part of their end of shift handover and ask to hold it in your loved one’s room. Talk to all the doctors too. There may be more than one involved. Ask for a list.
Doctors are motivated
Hospitals are not the most profitable businesses. More surgeries means more money. Before making a decision, ask for a second independent opinion.
Understanding and controlling costs
Always ask if your senior will be admitted or if they’ll be under observation. This is critical because Medicare won’t pay for post-hospitalization services like rehab or home health unless your senior has been admitted for at least 3 days. Check Your Bills. 8 out of 10 bills have errors.
Carry a List Their Meds
Mistakes happen far too often. Always bring a printed list of your loved one’s medications, even the over the counter meds. There could be complications when taken with other meds. A clear medication schedule with full drug names, time of day, dosage, and special instructions goes a long way to preventing problems.
Rehab can be done in the home setting or in a facility. You don’t have to go the facility that the physician orders for your loved one (patient's bill of rights). Not all skilled nursing and rehab facilities are created equal. Call around and discuss with the facilities the type of care your loved one might be needing. Stop by and check them out ahead of time. If they are going home to recover, home health care is prescribed by a doctor. Patient bill of rights applies here too.
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Especially when they are being discharged. Most hospitals will push to get a patient out before the weekend arrives. They are going to be working to get as many out as they can. They will be talking fast. People will be in and out of the room. It will be easy to forget half of what doctors or nurses tell you. That information is important, so write everything down in a notebook. Don’t expect a copy of everything either. Get the paperwork before you leave. This includes copies of all labs, tests, scans, surgery reports, and most important, the discharge summary.
Know Before You Go
Get all of their meds and schedule your future appointments with their doctors now. Insist that your loved ones follow-up appointment is scheduled. The hospital may be able to help make the arrangements with the doctor who might be taking over.