If you follow Taking Care of Grandma on social media, you may know that my grandma and I just survived her most recent hospitalization. She was admitted for a partial bowel blockage and stayed 5 nights.
Fortunately, Grandma’s hospital stays have been few and far between. But when she does go, since I’m her only family, I have to take care of everythang. Calvin spent a LOT of time in and out of the hospital, especially at the end. I have learned a lot about being rushed to the Emergency Room and hospitalizations.
Call up a ride. People who come in by ambulance are situated faster. If you can afford it, and it’s hard to get the person around as it is, just call 9-1-1 and go by ambulance. Plus, if your person is feeling weak, or is severely sick, you don’t want to waste any time or risking serious injury trying to get them around yourself.
You are the expert. You know the most about your caree and have the most contextual information about the situation. Tell them your concerns and suspicions and hypotheses without reserve. If they seem inconvenienced, do not let that dissuade you. Give them all the information you have and don’t stop until you feel you have given them everything they need to know. The health care professionals need all the help they can get. They have a tendency to get stuck in the climax and need a little help to understand the rising action.
Get your rest in with minimal guilt. Face it. For some of us, hospitalizations are the only time we can truly get a break and feel a small amount of relief knowing someone is close by and has an eye on our loved one. It is okay to go up for the day then go home at nite. It’s okay to only spend a few hours if that’s all you have in you, especially if the admitting part wasn’t so smooth. Sometimes, even know I know this, I feel a little guilty. This time, I found out they gave her pain medicine after the fact (lesson learned: demand to be notified before they administer these). Since they didn’t know how to soothe her, they gave her Fentanyl and Morphine. Now, I know that, in all likelihood, they would’ve suckered me into giving her some medicine regardless, or I would’ve been so upset seeing her in pain I wanted them to give her some anyway, but I couldn’t stop myself from feeling bad that she had to suffer the confusion and disorientation from the medicine while she was there. When I start to feel bad, I just tell myself that the people in the hospital are professionals. They deal with this type of thing all the time. And trust that they can handle it. Because if they don’t, they’re going to end up looking realllllly bad 😈😈😈😈
Be prepared for going to the hospital. Last year some time, in anticipation of a medical disaster that never ensued, I packed a grab and go bag and stuck it in a cubby hole with her medical binder (that contains extra copies of my DPOA and Medical DPOA paperwork). I cannot tell you how much time and unnecessary trips back and forth from the house I saved with this bag. It’s basic contents (emergency ostomy Kit, 1 change of clothes, extra underwear and socks, charger, pens, pencils, crossword puzzles). When we were waiting for the ambulance, I tossed in some snacks and her slippers. I didn’t have to go back and grab anything.
Two words: Alimentary room. The alimentary room has ice, water, hot water, coffee, and drinks. It’s allegedly for patients only, but if you want some water or are sick of waiting to the nurse to get it for your person, you can ask where it is so you can get it yourself. (If anyone ever argued with me, I would say that since I consider myself an extension of my caree as their caregiver, I am also the patient). I like to put tea in my purse when I am going to the hospital, and run to the alimentary room for hot water. It’s a great excuse to get out of the room for a few minutes, too.
Two more words: Constant observation. If your loved one has demential, behavioral or special needs, the doctor can order “Constant Observation.” I learned that when my gma’s first major hospitalization in 2015. When she started flipping out from the pain medicine they were giving her, and I wasn’t there to calm her, they out her on Constant Observation so she wouldn’t rip out her G-tube or try to leave the hospital. I later used it for Calvin when his Medicaid in-home supports waiver provider was not able to provide support in the hospital (it’s double dipping). Note: the doctor has to write an order for Constant Observation and has to be for a specific number of hours and discontinued (ie: overnite).
Prepare a basic stock update to communicate easily with everyone. When my gma was in the hospital this last time, I opened up a text message, typed in the basic info about what was going on for the day, then added or subtracted pertinent details based on who it was going to (church family vs her sidekicks vs social media). When she got home, I had a basic written account of her time there and what happened and was able to fill in some specific details. I felt pretty dang smart, I tell you what.
Take everything when you go. Not just your personal effects, but anything that is still open and usable. When they bring things to your room, they scan your bar code and bill your insurance. When you are discharged, they will THROW THEM AWAY. Wipes, briefs, tissues, toilet paper, and on and on. Take it with you when you go. Don’t feel bad. You paid for it.
Give yourself permission to recuperate. We spend days on high alert when our loved ones are in the hospital. Adrenaline pumping, heart racing, blood pressure elevated… defensive against professionals and providers, anticipating the next catastrophe… living in this perpetual state of emergency isn’t gentle in your body. when your loved one does finally get home, make time and space for yourself to get some R&R.
Hospital stays are tough. In the moment, it seems like you’ll never get out of there.
Tell yourself it’s only temporary. Look forward to the end goal, but do as much as possible to keep your loved one comfortable and safe in the moment, and hospitalizations will get less traumatic as time goes on.
If you have any other tips for hospital survival, I’d love to hear them! Drop them in the comments 👇👇👇👇👇👇