An advocate is someone you can count on to be by your side when you need it most, and there are many ways an advocate can help you during a hospital visit. There are two kinds of advocates who can help you. An advocacy service can provide professional help to navigate the complex world of healthcare, or a trusted friend or family member can serve as your advocate, helping to make sure things go as smoothly as possible in the hospital so that all you have to do is focus on recovering. This week, we'll be focusing just on how a friend or family member can help make your hospital stay easier. (Tune in next week for how an advocacy service can help!)
Before you go into the hospital, consider asking someone to be your advocate. Give them a list of ways that they can help you as you recover. Let them know that in many cases, this won’t cost them anything but their time and care. Whether you’re in the hospital for only a few hours or for a few days, here are some ideas of ways your advocate can help you:
- Do the research. Have your advocate help you research your condition and treatment through reliable resources (such as .gov websites or the Mayo Clinic) so that you have an idea of what to expect before arriving at the hospital.
- Drive you to and from the hospital. This is especially important if you are going to be anesthetized at any point during your hospital visit!
- Take notes. You may be sleepy before or after your procedure, so you may not be in the best position to remember what the doctor or nurses have said. Your advocate can take notes on what the medical personnel have said about your condition, your treatment, your medication dosage, and more.
- Keep it clean. It’s very important that you don’t come out of the hospital with any extra infections that could hinder your recovery. Your advocate can keep an eye on the medical personnel who come into contact with you and can watch to make sure they sanitize or wash their hands before touching you. If the advocate hasn’t seen someone wash up or sanitize, they should speak up right away and ask the doctor or nurse to do so.
- Manage allergies. Are you allergic to any medications? If so, your advocate can make sure that the medical personnel have this marked in your file. Your advocate can also check out any prescriptions you’re given and speak up on your behalf, making sure that any medications you’re given don’t contain any of your known allergens.
- Help you stay comfortable. If you’re going to be in the hospital for a couple days, pack a “comfort bag” before you go. Consider adding your favorite book, a new magazine, slippers, and a comfort item like a stuffed animal or favorite pillow to the bag. If the hospital has not put you on a restricted diet, consider packing a favorite snack or two. Ask your advocate to bring the bag to your room once you’re out of surgery.
- Collect relevant information upon discharge. Your advocate can help you collect information about follow-up visits, prescriptions, recommended over-the-counter medications, what side effects to watch out for, and more. Ask your advocate to take notes or—even better—request printed copies of this information that you can take along with you.