Must know tips when seniors are in the hospital
Hospitals are confusing and stressful places. When your older adult is in the hospital, tips from experienced insiders help you avoid problems and make informed decisions.
We found a useful article from Reader’s Digest with 50 secrets about hospitals that patients should know. They gathered these hospital tips from 50 different healthcare and medical insiders. We had a concern about one tip, but the rest are great – and we’ll tell you why.
Be careful with Secret #1 Pick a Teaching Hospital
The first tip in the Reader’s Digest list is to choose a teaching hospital because they’re often at the forefront of research. That’s great, but if your senior is planning surgery, you may want to avoid scheduling it in July. That’s when death rates in teaching hospitals spike up to 34% above normal. Whoa!
18 useful hospital tips for seniors and caregivers
Out of the 50 secrets covered in the article, we’ve chosen the 18 tips most helpful for caregivers to know. We’ve also included an explanation for why this advice helps seniors get the best care.
Secret #2 Beware Freestanding ERs
These are not the same as hospital ERs and probably won’t be equipped to handle with the complex health conditions that most seniors have.
Secret #3 Shop Around For Rehab
Not all skilled nursing and rehab facilities are equal. Call around and ask about their experience with your senior’s specific condition. More experience usually means a better recovery.
Secret #4 Sanitize Everything
Hospitals are where all the germs live! Don’t count on the hospital to have sanitized absolutely every surface. Seniors are vulnerable to infections, so it helps to use bleach or alcohol wipes on bedrails, chair handles, bathroom grab bars, etc. Clean their hands before eating too.
Secret #5 Join the Conversation
Ask nurses to do their end of shift handover at your senior’s bedside. That way, you can listen in and correct misunderstandings or wrong info before it causes a problem.
Secret #6 Don’t Be a Distraction
Feel free to ask questions and chat with nurses, but make sure you’re not a distraction while they’re doing something important like preparing your senior’s medication. Talking with you at the same time could lead to a mistake.
Secret #7 Ask What Your Doctor Will Be Doing
Don’t assume your senior’s surgeon will be doing the entire operation and follow-up care. Sometimes they hand over some parts to other doctors who may not be as experienced or careful. It’s important to find out exactly which parts they’ll be doing themselves.
Secret #10 Doctors Are Incentivized to Overtreat
More surgeries = more money. It’s sad, but true. That could cause surgeons to recommend operations for your senior that might not be absolutely necessary. Before making a decision, ask about the consequences of not doing the procedure.
Secret #12 Ask If You’ll Be Admitted
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.
Secret #17 Check, Check, Check Your Bill
8 out of 10 hospital bills contain an error! Check that all medications and services billed for were actually given to your senior. Plus, you might even be able to negotiate a 35 – 50% discount.
Secret #18 Second-Guess Tests
Medical tests are often done as a “just in case,” but can be invasive and cause seniors unnecessary suffering. Ask doctors why they want to order that test, what information it will give, and how it will change your senior’s care.
Secret #30 Be Detailed About Your Meds
Nurses may say “it’s ok, we’ve got all the medication info in the computer” but mistakes happen far too often. Bring a printed list of your senior’s medications. A clear medication schedule with full drug names, time of day, dosage, and special instructions goes a long way to preventing problems.
Secret #31 Admitted? Log Everything
Keep a notebook with you and track everything, like an ongoing journal of events. Record time, date, and names when people come and go, services or tests are done, doctors talk with you etc. A lot of info is constantly being thrown at you and this helps you keep the facts straight. This log also helps resolve billing problems down the road.
Secret #38 Stay With Your Loved Ones
It’s exhausting, but do your best to stay the night with your senior. You’ll be able to keep them from getting disoriented in the middle of the night and help get the assistance they need. This is especially important if they can’t press the call button themselves. Nurses usually only come when called.
Secret #39 Hospital Food Could Make You Sick
Don’t assume hospital meals will be safe for your senior. For example, some medications for high blood pressure or heart failure raise potassium levels. A breakfast with bananas and orange juice, both high in potassium, can cause a big problem. Ask the doctor if there are foods to avoid and watch out for them on the meal tray.
Secret #41 Schedule Surgery Early In the Week
Hospitals have more staff and more experienced doctors and nurses available during the week. Try to schedule surgery early in the week so your senior will be well on the way to recovery by the weekend. During weekends and holidays, there’s less staff and some services might be closed.
Secret #44 Take Notes, Especially at Discharge
With all the stress and exhaustion, it’s natural to forget half of what doctors or nurses tell you. That information is important, so write everything down in a notebook. You’ll thank yourself later.
Secret #45 Get Your Papers Right Away
Get copies of all labs, tests, scans, surgery reports, and the discharge summary before leaving the hospital. It can be incredibly difficult to get copies after leaving. Avoid this headache and get a copy even if they say everything is “in the system” and can be sent anywhere. That’s not always true.
Secret #47 Schedule Your Follow-Up Before You Leave
Before leaving the hospital, insist that your senior’s follow-up appointment is scheduled. The hospital may be able to help make the arrangements with the doctor who’s taking over. This avoids potential problems from not getting proper follow-up care in the right timeframe.
By DailyCaring Editorial Staff
Image: Family Private Care