My sister and I have become the dynamic duo of caregiving, with her brains (she is the smartest person I know) and my health care background our family members have come to rely on us when it comes to making health care decisions. However; during a family member’s, we’ll call her Sally, recent hospital stint for a high fever, my sister and I weren’t quite on the same page.
My sister had been at the hospital when the doctor came by and said that they were discharging Sally with the plan of having a PIC-line inserted (an IV that has a long line attached that is threaded through the vein) and 2 weeks of out-patient IV antibiotics.
When I arrived for my “shift” my sister gave me the report and went to her 2nd job of caring for her children. However; something wasn’t sitting right about discharge plan. None of the test results seemed to warrant what to me seemed like an extreme discharge plan. As an advocate for Sally, I needed more answers. I asked Sally if she understood the reason for the 2 weeks of IV antibiotics. She did not, nor did she feel comfortable with the idea of having a PIC-line for 2 weeks. So we began to ask more questions of the medical staff.
At this point I wanted to empower Sally to ask questions about her health care. I told her that even if other people understood the plan of care, it was crucial that she did because it’s her body and health.
I shared the following information:
- Keep asking questions until you understand what the medical staff is telling you.
- Ask them for printed information about procedures, medications and testing they suggest.
- If you don’t feel comfortable or understand the plan-of-care you have the right to say “no” to tests and procedures until you fully understand.
- There are no dumb questions nor is there a limit to how many times or people you can ask the question to.
- Ask a family member or friend who might be able to understand the information and explain it in a way that is easier to understand to be there when the doctor comes.
The outcome: Sally asked more questions and still did not feel comfortable with the plan. I suggested that she be discharged without the PIC-line and that she make an appointment with the Infectious Disease doctor at her office for the next morning to ask more questions. The next morning we met with a different doctor than the one who had seen her in the hospital. This doctor not only explained the reasoning behind the discharge plan but said that there was no need for the PIC-line and she only needed 5 days of IV antibiotics as opposed to 14 days. Sally understood the plan and was satisfied with the outcome.
Bottom line: Take control of your health care and empower those you love to be in control of theirs!
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