How to Be a Good Advocate for a Loved One in the Hospital

Recently, the Washington Post ran an article in its Health & Science section concerning the need for patient advocates in the hospital. The article not only argued why such an advocate is necessary in a hospital setting but provided helpful tips on how to practice advocacy. Here are some of the things any advocate could do for a hospitalized loved one:
● Falls. Make sure the staff are aware when a patient is at risk of falling, and have the patient evaluated if you are concerned. Falls are a leading cause of hospital injuries.
● Infections. Don’t be shy about asking health-care providers if they have washed their hands or asking them to do it again in front of you.
● Literacy. Read any forms the patient is asked to sign. (He or she may be unable to absorb the information completely.)
● Medication. Doctors and hospital staff members should always explain to the patient which drugs they are being given. Ideally, medication should be in the original wrapper. Medication errors injure 1.5 million people each year.
● Surgery. Before an operation, make sure the site of surgery is marked and verified by the doctor. The advocate can and probably should be present when this is done. There are still 40 cases every week of surgeries done on the wrong body part. If the patient has not been given antibiotics, ask if there is a reason; taking antibiotics preventatively before surgery has been shown to reduce infection risk. Also, make sure the patient has a warm blanket before and after surgery, since staying warm also reduces infection risk.
The article concludes by reminding potential advocates that it’s important to be pro-active. If you believe there’s a problem that’s not being addressed, speak up and make sure a staff member addresses the issue.