This post is prompted by hearing from one or two people who are to about to support loved ones in hospital. I wish I had known what I know now, when a nearest and dearest was in hospital some time ago.
We all know that most hospitals, despite staff being stretched to the limit, still maintain the highest standards of care. If however you suspect your loved one is not getting the best of care, here are a few tips on doing something about it.
Keep your cool. Don’t barge into a busy office and just complain. Ask politely to see who is in charge, then be prepared to wait for some time if necessary to see them. Be prepared to go and move your car, put some more money in a meter. Make time to sort things out.
When you see the person in charge tell them what the problem is and ask what the solution is and when it will be carried out. If you get an evasive answer, repeat quietly but firmly. See more about how to get support from PALS and link at end of post.
If you suspect or know your loved one is not being fed properly due to lack of staff insist that you visit at meal times to do the job yourself.
If your loved one is really fed up with hospital food, bring in something they like to eat, checking it out with staff first, to ensure it does not interfere with the treatment plan.
If your loved one likes Guinness, ask if you can bring it in for them. Once upon a time this was available on the National Health and it can be very cheering and actually good for the patient.
If it is a hospital with the public phones needing change, money for the TV channels etc. make sure the patient has some change, If however all this is beyond them anyway see if your loved one would like a personal radio brought in. Consider too taking in a portable DVD with some films and some earphones maybe with a few clips from family films too.
Take in Wet Wipes, make sure your loved one always has clean water to drink.
Flowers are often not allowed these days, so why not take a pretty card with special message for them to open after the visiting time.
A pretty shawl particularly in winter makes a change from the boredom of white nighties and things.
If it is a longer term stay, consider taking in a loved one’s hobby if practical, drawing or knitting, books they are familiar with. Newspapers and mags can get very boring.
Consider a beauty session such as painting nails with some pretty nail varnish. Ask if a foot massage is allowed (not always for cancer patients). If it is, learn how to do it yourself, gently, with a bit of trial and error and some lavender oil.
If your loved one is not mobile see if a spare wheelchair is available and take them for a wander to look out of a window or for a visit to the hospital shop.
Think about the senses, sight, sound, taste and touch and where possible take in something linked with one of the senses for some of your no doubt many hospital visits.
Where to go before things go wrong.
If you have any doubts at all about your loved one’s care, find the PALS office. The staff are independent and will advise on things you or the patient may not understand.
If you are unhappy about the care or treatment they will liaise and set up a meeting with a senior member of staff and attend the meeting with you. An action plan is guaranteed.
This is the website link.
I only wish I had known about PALS much earlier when I had a loved one in hospital, when they did come on the scene they were brilliant! But frankly it was a bit too late, she went in for a minor operation and had caught a bug in hospital. Despite my best efforts, she died. Adding to natural grief was the sadness/anger due to her blatant mismanagement in the hospital!
I considered taking action, but in the end complained making one point at a time. It took six months to get a reply, they did not take any blame or give an apology of course, but a letter stating how ‘re-training for dying with dignity’ was to be undertaken. I hasten to add this was not in a hospital in Brighton, but judging by the media such things can happen anywhere!
Lastly – think about yourself, eat properly, take a luxurious bath or shower, wash your hair slowly, massage your scalp (it’s soothing and cleansing), go for a walk, wander in the garden, keep in touch with friends but tell them gently to talk about anything other than how the loved one is.
I have put a ‘Relaxation and Positive Heath’ film on youtube in the last year, which is nothing to do with this post really but may help to keep you, as the carer, to keep calm.
Good luck. Ann