Mary has been recovering from an elder health care crisis of open heart surgery and a bumpy recovery. I’ve shared some of the challenges that Mary has faced in recent posts. We are hoping she will be discharged from skilled nursing in about a week. This feels like the right time to review some of what I’ve learned.
Always have an advocate when you enter the hospital.
Being in the hospital can be overwhelming. When you are in pain or not feeling well, it’s hard to represent for yourself. After Mary’s surgery, she experienced delirium and couldn’t adequately speak up at all.
Make sure your advocate has the tools and information to be effective.
Complete a power of attorney for healthcare.The hospital environment can be a difficult place to get answers. Your advocate needs the strength of character and persistence to address problems and follow up. Make sure your advocate knows how you want to be cared for during an elder health care crisis.
Have a clear picture of your expected recovery.
Write down your questions and concerns before you go to your pre-surgical appointment. Take the time to get all your questions answered. Make sure the doctor understands your living situation. Let her know if you live alone or have a dog that you take for walks. When will you be able to resume driving? Include your advocate in these conversations if at all possible. Two people asking questions and hearing the answers is better than one.
Take control of your recovery.
Assume that you are going to need more help than you think and that your hospital stay will be longer than you expect. Mary did take some steps in anticipation of her recovery but it was obvious when we picked up some clothes for her stay at a nursing home that she had not given much thought to preparing her home for recovery.
Especially if your family member lives alone, bring in easy to prepare meals, do some basic housecleaning, catch up on laundry and change bed linens so she can come home to a welcoming atmosphere. Keep in mind that returning home after surgery may not mean that your family member will be back to her normal routine.
What have you learned from helping a family member navigate an elder health care crisis? Share what you did to prepare at EldercareABCblog.com.