During a recent conversation with a friend he shared how frustrated he was that, during a medical crisis with his father-in-law that required emergency surgery; no-one asked any questions of the surgeon about potential future consequences or complications.
I’ve often shared with family caregivers that, prior to their loved ones doctor’s appointment, they should write down any questions they have about medications, side-affects, current health issues and so on. However; until this conversation I had never thought about doing the same thing during a medical crisis.
While in the midst of a crisis everything seems to be happening at the speed of light, however; take a moment to step back and a deep breath and ask the following questions before they take your loved one to surgery (note: these questions should also be asked prior to scheduled surgery as well)
· Is this something that my loved one would want to have done? (see FYI about POA & The Chosen One)
- What is the reasoning behind the surgery?
- What is the expected outcome?
- Will having the surgery increase their current quality of life?
- What are potential complications?
- What is the worst-case-scenario outcome?
- Could the surgery cause other issues in regards to their physical and mental capacity? (i.e. potential for stoke or memory loss/impairment)
- Are there other options besides surgery?
Ask follow-up questions, as well as for clarification of answers given by the medical staff if you do not understand the answer you receive. You have the right to fully understand what is happening and what will be done to your loved one during the procedure.
If the decision is made to go ahead with the surgery, then utilize time in the waiting room to write down any and all questions you have taking into account potential positive and negative outcomes. There are no stupid questions when it comes to the care of someone you love.
That being said, the optimal way to stay calm and make informed decisions during a crisis is to have pro-active conversations with your loved one about what decisions they would want made on their behalf prior to the emergency and write it down (see What if?). Don’t wait until the crisis occurs have the conversation today!
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How many times have we been driving home and realized we forgot to ask that very important question? It happens to all of us, and it even gets compounded when we are under stress. Caregivers should possibly keep a folder in their car that has some general guidance for when they find themselves in a tough situation like the emergency room. It would be nice to be able to walk out to the car and grab that list of questions to think about while waiting.