Posted on Sunday, November 27, 2011

Knowing what to do before entering the hospital can often be as important as what happens while in the hospital. Although there are wonderful and dedicated staff members there to care for you, they are often challenged with handling many patients at one time, and juggling several responsibilities. Therefore, you need to be knowledgeable and prepared, to serve as your own best advocate. Here are several important suggestions to prepare for a hospital visit:

1. Bring a list of all your medications and dosages (including over-the-counter and supplement products.) If easier, bring the actual bottles with you to review with your hospital nurse.

2. Make sure you have prepared the legal document entitled the Durable Medical Power of Attorney, and bring a copy with you to the hospital. This document allows a designated loved one to make medical decisions for you, in the event that you are unable to makes decisions for yourself. If possible, bring a copy of your medical history with you, and a list of contact numbers for family members should something happen to you that requires hospital staff to contact others for you.

3. Identify, and get to know, the key hospital staff who are involved in your care during your stay. The hospitalist is the physician who will be in charge of your medical care while you are there. The nurse case manager will manage your care process throughout your time at the hospital. The discharge planner will be in charge of everything that happens when you leave the hospital and what services you will receive after discharge (such as rehabilitation.) Some hospitals offer a patient advocate if you have concerns that you feel require a third-party to address. Because their time is limited, make a list of any questions you may have before your meetings with each of them, so that your concerns are addressed and you have quality time with each one.

4. Prior to being discharged, do not hesitate to request a case conference meeting, where your entire care team can meet with you to discuss your discharge date, any home-based services you may be eligible to receive, what insurance will cover, and any other related costs. If possible, have an advocate attend with you, who can be a family member, friend, or geriatric care manager. Be persistent in expressing any questions you have, or needs you want discussed.

5. Before discharging, request a list of the medications which you received and that were prescribed, while in the hospital. Immediately provide this list to your primary care physician. Medications will occasionally be changed or adjusted during a hospital stay, and it is important for your doctor to have this information to ensure they are properly monitored.

Remember, if you desire more assistance in getting your questions answered, or obtaining the information you want, a patient advocate can help you work through issues and situations that arise while in the hospital.

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