This past month I had the experience of making an emergency visit to the hospital with my mother-in-law. As I followed the ambulance to the hospital several preconceived thoughts passed through my mind about what the emergency room experience would be like. None of them happened. The staff was efficient, professional and sensitive to my mother-in-law’s feelings.
They informed her about what they were doing and continually queried her about her comfort level. However, from her perspective she was in a strange new world immersed in an environment of technology. Computers were everywhere. Doctors using laptops and tablets had immediate access to her medical history, her medications and her current medical condition. She was connected to electronic equipment that measured all her vital signs including a finger cuff that measured the oxygen level in her blood. Oxygen, an IV and medications were administered. A nurse rolled in a computer to take her statement about how she was feeling, what had happened and her current medical information. Another staff member rolled in a computer to take her admission and insurance information. We waited in the emergency room cubicle until she was stable and rested. My mother-in-law was then admitted and sent to a room in the cardiac care unit. She was again connected to monitors that measured her vital signs, but in addition, now her bed had alarms in it to inform the staff if she was having difficulties or got out of bed. The first time she reached over to get water off the stand by her bed the alarm sounded. She looked all around wondering what was happening. A nurse came quickly into the room and explained it to her. The nurses had cell phones to communicate with each other and other medical professionals. They gave me their cell phone numbers in case I had any questions when I got home. The point of all this is if you are 94 years old and did not grow up in the computer age or the cell phone generation all this can be overwhelming. I found myself interpreting for her what was going on and the function of all the equipment. What it was doing or measuring and why. If all this wasn’t enough for her, getting her meals turned out to be an adventure unto itself. Years past when she was in the hospital meals just seem to materialize at meal time. Now her meals were catered by an outside food service. She had menus and choices to make and a specific timeline in which to call in her selections. Although this would seem a better alternative, for my mother-in-law it was just another task at a time when she really didn’t have the energy or the inclination. My wife and I would come early every morning to help her make her meal selections and call them in for the day. When people aren’t feeling well and are not at their best they need advocates to help them understand and process their condition and care options. Advocates have the advantage in that they can remove themselves from the situation and look at it objectively. They can ask appropriate questions, analyze all the information and assist in making fact based decisions or informed suggestions. Any person that interfaces with the medical and health care system can benefit from having an advocate.
– by Hello! Home Care contributing writer Bill Mishico