How To Advocate for Your Loved Ones

Dear CareNav Nurse Julie, 

My mother is headed into surgery. I was told it would be “a simple procedure”, not even involving any anesthesia.  Last time, she went in for a simple surgery, she was readmitted a week later due to a misunderstanding about her medication. Is there anything I can do or ask to prepare this time around? 

Thank you, 

Dear Concerned, 

I am sorry that you are dealing with this stressful situation. This scenario is all too common in health care, and more often than not, it is an avoidable situation.  Unfortunately, up to 20% of people who have been in the hospital get readmitted within 30 days for the same condition or a related one – like an infection after a surgery or dehydration after pneumonia. 

Commonly, medication lists change before, during and after surgery or hospitalizations.  Often, adjustments in a person’s medication list need to be made carefully to strike a new balance or to support a “new normal”.  Yet in today’s health care environment, a long line of nurses, pharmacists and doctors often “touch” a single patient for a short period of time, and often don’t have the chance to really get to know the patient or what they truly need.  As for the patient who is recovering, they may not be able to listen actively and ask questions effectively.

What can be done? 

  1.  Bring a medication list with you to every visit. 

  2.  Make sure to review those lists at the end of each visit and before you are discharged from the hospital.  

  3.  Make sure you understand what each medicine is for and the doses you should take now and into the future. 

  4.  Make sure to check that there is no “duplication” of medication, which can sometimes occur when the name of a medication is listed in different ways (generic vs. brand name).

  5.  Don’t hesitate to call your provider’s office if you get home and are not completely sure you understand all the instructions.  Don’t wait.  Call right away. Even one day off an important medication, like those for infections, heart conditions, blood pressure, and diabetes can have significant consequences.

Finally, trust your instincts. The patient journey, especially through surgery or hospitalization, can often be long and complex.  Studies have shown than engaged patients and their families/caregivers correlate with better outcomes. Yet, often the well-meaning people in health care often do not take the time to discuss details and make sure the patient understands them. Your Mom is lucky to have someone to worry about her; not everyone has someone they trust to ask important questions. I have confidence that if you continue to advocate for your mother and stay active and engaged in her care, this upcoming surgery will be better than the last.  I wish you and your family a speedy recovery.  

With warm regards, 
Julie, RN

Nurse Julie is a part of the CareNav community. CareNav is a network of experienced nurses available for one-on-one virtual consultations to empower and facilitate the healthcare experience of patients, caregivers, and their families. You can visit us here.