003: Patient Advocacy: How Family and Friends Can Help [Podcast]

Session 3Patient Advocacy

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Health News Headline of the Week

Obesity surgery may ‘cure’ diabetes for 15 years

Feature of the week: Patient Advocacy

How family and friends can help

What is a patient advocate? An advocate can be a spouse, parent, child, sibling, friend or it can even be a hired professional. The primary role of the advocate is to be a support for the patient.

Why is it important to have an advocate? Most often, the patient isn’t really retaining what is being said when they are in the hospital or at the Doctors office and could potentially be about to receive some bad news. They aren’t feeling very well and not likely to be as sharp as they would be under normal circumstances. The advocate is there to fill in the gaps and write down information, ask questions and keep an overall eye out for the patient’s safety. While in hospital the advocate is there to assist the patient wherever necessary when the nursing staff isn’t in the room.

How to advocate for the patient

1. Stay with the patient as much as possible. Find out about visitation policies and stay overnight, if possible. You can take turns with friends/family. If you are unable to be present have 1 designee call the nurse to get updates on the patient 2-3 times per day.
2. Have pen & paper ready or a note taking app like Evernote to jot down information the doctor & nurses give you and to write your questions so your don’t forget the next time the doctor or nurse is in the room. Also, try to write down vital signs, bathroom trips and glucose readings.
3. Ask the staff questions about anything you don’t understand or want to know. If the nurse is giving a medication, ask what the medication is, if he or she doesn’t initially volunteer the information.
4. Observe staff entering the room to be sure they wash their hands. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you don’t see them wash their hands or using hand sanitizer.
5. Make sure each person entering the room to do anything for the patient checks the patient’s wristband.
6. Make sure all medications, IV fluid bags and other equipment in the room is labeled with your patient’s information. Extra tip: Know your blood type, so if you ever need to receive blood you can look or ask to be sure that it’s a compatible blood type you’re receiving.
7. Understand discharge instructions clearly and get prescriptions for any new medications your doctor prescribes. Ask about the medication list and what to take when you get home. Your doctor may change regimen.  Understand whether you should resume the same regimen or stop any of the medications you were taking before.
8. Have contact information for scheduling any necessary follow-up appointments with doctor, home care services or special testing facilities.
9. Patient bill of rights. Read this document, it is given to the patient during the registration process. Know the patient’s right to making decisions regarding care, pain management, who to call if you have a complaint, etc. Also, find out about rapid response team. This group is available 24/7 to come assess the patient if the patient seems to be distressed something just doesn’t seem quite right. Assess your family member/friend regularly to see if they are unexpectedly declining away from their normal baseline behavior (example: running a fever, confused, headache, or any new onset symptom)
10. Patient advocacy can be hard work. It can be time consuming, and sometimes even exhausting. Be sure to take time to take care of yourself so you don’t experience caregiver fatigue. Find the creature comforts like the linen cart, patient/visitor refrigerator, laundry & shower facilities and use them as necessary.Also, ask family and friends to visit with you often to give you a bit of a break. It is also helpful to alternate the responsibilities of being an advocate, if another family member or friend is able to help.

Click Link for PDF printable: 10 Tips for Family & Friends of Hospital Patients

Healthy Inspirational Quote

“To ensure good health: eat lightly, breathe deeply, live moderately, cultivate cheerfulness, and maintain an interest in life.”  ~William Londen

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 Please note: All content here is strictly for information purposes only. It does not substitute for any medical advice and does not replace the judgment or reasoning provided by your own health care provider. Please always seek a licensed Physician in your area regarding all health related issues and questions. Thanks for listening to Take Charge of Your Health podcast. If you have any suggestions for future topics, visit takechargeyourhealth.com and leave me a message there.

Until next time, Blessings and good health to you.

About Meredith Hurston