Preparing elderly parents for their hospital stay
Sandeep Sachdeva, MD, is a hospitalist and the Medical Director for the Banner Gateway Medical Center Hospitalist Program.
Question: How can I be sure my elderly parents are prepared if they suddenly need to go to the hospital?
Answer: Most hospitalizations are unplanned, but that doesn’t mean you can’t plan ahead. There are a few specific things we can all do to ensure we are prepared for an unexpected hospital stay.
First, identify who will be the patient’s advocate. This person can be a spouse, relative or friend who serves as the patient’s spokesperson and a second set of ears when medical information is discussed. Often times it is hard for patients to fully comprehend the nuances or complexities of fast developing medical situations in an environment with many providers. Having an advocate is an invaluable tool to keep track of developments during hospitalization. This person may also hold medical power of attorney which means they can make decisions about a patient’s care if the patient is unable to do so.
Second, always have a clear, concise list of medications with you. This list should include medication names, dosages, frequency and start dates for both prescription drugs and over the counter medications. This list is invaluable for emergency physicians and hospitalists when treating a patient.
Third, be sure to have a written medical history, especially if you are from out of state. This should include previous surgeries, treatments and diagnoses, and a list of current medical providers with phone numbers.
Finally, discuss end of life issues with family members. Having a living will ensures that a patient’s wishes will be known to both family members and medical providers.
Following these simple steps will give physicians in the hospital the information needed to provide patients with excellent care. It will also ensure that both patients and families are fully informed about medical conditions and treatment options.