Aging Parents: Hospitalization and the Importance of Family I’ve never been an alarmist, I think having the information below is just plain “smart.” While one could use the word “proactive,” it’s not a word I particularly like– but it’s also clearly applicable. Today we’re much more informed about our medical treatment, which sometimes involves more explanations from doctors than we can digest. This is a good reason to accompany aging parents to their doctor appointments if they’ll agree to it. 4 ears and 2 brains should be better than half that number, especially when people grow old. Let’s look at how this relates to supporting hospitalized aging parents~

(Dr.) Susan Love’s Illness Gives New Focus to Her Cause, appeared in last Tuesday’s NY Times Science section (2/19/13). While Dr. Love discusses her reasons for focusing her efforts on the causes of disease rather than the medicines to treat it, I found another aspect of the article telling–and that concerns the role of her family. While she talks about the 4-week ordeal following her bone marrow transplant, she says that family members “offered round the clock support,” advocated for her during that time “when she wasn’t very articulate,” and relates that one family member “slept in the hospital every night.”

An op-ed piece, Losing my Leg to a Medical Error  also appears in that 2/19/13 Science section. It’s written by a physician who is a professor of medicine at the U. of Florida. He recently underwent an above-the-knee amputation due to a preventable error associated with a procedure 17 years earlier on his Achilles’ tendon. He writes:

For the past two decades I have been studying how to prevent errors in health care,
and the irony of my present predicament strengthens my motivation to continue 
the quest. No one should ever have to experience such preventable harm.
And yet many people do…

This brings us to Marti Weston’s blog, As Our Parents Age, which is one of the 4 first runners-up (mine included) in the 2013 SeniorHomes.Com Best Senior Living Awards. I often read her posts in a bunch, and was doing so on Feb. 19th when I came across her early February hospitalization post: Elder in Hospital. Does a Family Member Need to be There, Too? The bottom line is “yes.” And Marti is specific about why and about certain things family members can do (which includes sleeping at the hospital) to avert problems.

That almost every aging parent and elderly person will be hospitalized for at least one health event is inevitable. Information from the above links gives us a “heads up”–preparing us to “do it smart” as we try our best to help parents (indeed any family member) age well.


8 thoughts on “Aging Parents: Hospitalization and the Importance of Family

  1. I couldn’t agree more with your post and information. My dad was in ICU last month for about a week and fortunately I was able to get to him and basically camp out. Doctors are in and out, they contradict each other and no one took the time to ask any questions of us. I finally had to pull the hospitalist and the discharge planner aside and fill them in on some things. I’m a professional and I found it all to be very overwhelming and confusing. I believe it’s critical for families to be bedside during morning rounds, take notes and be very pro-active. Thanks for a great post!

    • You’re so welcome, Lu Ann and special thanks to you–as a daughter and a professional–for sharing specifics of your experience and offering advice (especially about the importance of being “bedside” for morning rounds). Hope you Dad is doing well now.

  2. I live with and care for my grandma and I do go in with her to all of her doctor appointments. I feel it’s best if I am properly informed. She may not remember everything the doctor said and she also might not be completely forthright either. It helps me to know exactly what is going on with her and they also give me advice on how to better care for her as well. She sometimes looks annoyed by me accompanying her into all of them, but she never tells me no or butts in when I tell the doctor what’s been going on. As stubborn as she is, she does understand that I and the rest of the family just want what is best for her and that we are trying to keep her out of a nursing home for as long as possible.

    • How fortunate your grandmother is to have you to care for her. You’re giving her a priceless gift, but you no doubt know that. Thanks so much for your comment.

      • Thank you, it’s nice hearing that now and then. 🙂 I am just trying to be the rock she needs, she’d been that for me for so long, and now it’s my chance to finally give back. ❤

        • They do say “what comes around, goes around” and I think that’s true.
          To backtrack–I neglected to mention that you brought up an excellent point about accompanying your grandmother to doctor appointments, even if it’s not exactly what she would prefer. It’s tricky–how does one do that without making an older person with a good mind (even if not-so-good hearing and/or memory) feel less competent?

          • Agreed, sometimes it is very difficult to not make her feel old, to not make her feel like she’s not in charge of her own life anymore. It does get tricky. I just explain to her the best I can that I just want her to be safe, to be okay. I am not doing any of what I do, none of us are because we want to fight with her, because we’re enjoying any of this. My mom, uncles, and I simply want her to be alright and to enjoy the rest of her life as much as possible.

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