You Need to BE There
I know this isn’t always possible for GenSandwichers, but if a loved one is in the hospital, it’s important—no, essential—for them to have an advocate on site at least during the day. It would be ideal to have someone in the room 24/7 but I know that’s almost impossible for most of us. But try to be present as much as possible during the day.
When Sis and Mom were in the hospital, I would arrive as early as possible, which for this night-person was usually 9:30 or 10:00 am (unless I knew a key doctor was coming in at 7:00 am–ugh!), and would stay at least until after dinner. The exact times depended on what was being done that day, how important my presence was, and how far I had to drive. If a procedure was scheduled early, I would be there for that. Otherwise, I would arrive by 10:00.
Why is this important? These days you don’t get to stay in the hospital unless you’re very ill. This usually involves pain meds, painful tests, and even surgery. The result is that the patient is usually in no condition to advocate for herself or understand what is being done for what reason. She’s often sleeping, groggy, in pain, and disoriented. And some, like both Mom and Sis, are afraid to advocate for themselves. They take on even more of a passive victim spirit than usual. They don’t want to offend or inconvenience the staff, so they let things go.
YOU Are the Advocate
So my job is to advocate for them. My job is to not be afraid. Of course I try my best to be polite, innocent, even humorous so as not to offend, but I’m awake and alert when the patient isn’t.
Of course, it helps if you know something about medicine, but that isn’t a requirement. My rule of thumb is to ask questions until I understand. If I can’t get an answer from one person, I ask the next one. I keep asking until I learn the terminology and understand the concept. Then I can explain it to the patient. I find that most staff members are willing to answer questions if I’m sensitive to the timing. And since I try relieve them of some of their more mundane responsibilities like refilling water or calming an anxious patient, they quickly learn to value my presence and work with me.
So if possible, be present as much as you possibly can.
See Part 1 here