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Avoiding Unintentional Harm During Hospital Stay

Judie Rappaport
July 1, 2014

Dear Judie, 

Mom's (84) having surgery in two weeks and our family is terrified. Our friends have so many stories about sub-par care. 

- Elaine, Vero


Dear Judie, 

Dad's (82) putting off surgery because his friend got an infection in the hospital. I told him hospitals are safer than over, but he still refuses. 

- Jeannie, Stuart


Dear Readers, 


Hospitalizations can be very disconcerting, if not downright scary. If you’re relying solely on the hospital’s doctors and nurses, listen up: you are the head of your medical team. If you perceive a problem, tell your physician or Nursing Supervisor. Don’t accept “we know what we’re doing” as an answer. Tell someone else until you get a respectful, informative reply. These three guidelines can help you remain safer: 


  1. Stay Informed: Every test is performed to answer a specific medical or diagnostic question. Is Mom’s heart functioning properly? Does Dad have kidney stones? Ask “why is Dad having this test?” and write the information down. Ask for test results and keep copies of the reports handy while Mom is in the hospital so you can discuss them when needed or report a test that may be duplicating a previous one.  
  2. Bring an Advocate: Ask friends/family to take shifts staying with Mom so you can take breaks. Educate them to look for changes that may go unnoticed by the staff (pain, breathing difficulties, nausea) or medical orders that aren’t followed: example, “patient on liquid diet.” Bring a list of Mom‘s home medications for your physician and Mom’s hospital nurse. Ask about potential negative side effects of new medications; call immediate attention to changes Mom experiences (dizzy, nauseous, blurred vision, stomach pain, dry mouth, leg pain, etc.).
  3. Avoid Infection: Do not accept treatment with items that have touched the floor; insist on replacements. Insist stethoscopes be clean as well. Bring sanitizing wipes to clean the remote and door knobs daily. Make sure the medical staff and visitors wash their hands with soap and water or wear fresh gloves before touching Mom or items used for her care.


Don't be intimidated by hospital surroundings or personnel. Doctors and nurses value informed patients and involved patient advocates. 



Judie Rappaport, President & Founder
Preferred Lifestyle Services

Trust Yourself. You Have the Knowledge, Insight,
and Power to make the right decisions for you and your parent. ©


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