Hospitalized Aging Parents: Avoiding the Accidental “Bad Things”

EACH YEAR, half-a-million injuries occur in the United States because of medication errors,” according to a 2009 U Magazine (UCLA health) article. 

We live in an imperfect world. The older we get the more we’re aware. With a better understanding of “best practices” are we better equipped to help hospitalized aging parents avoid accidental bad things because we know what to look for and thus, know what questions to ask? How can we know and ask pertinent questions if we’re clueless about it in the first place?

The following excerpted information from U Magazine’s 2009 article, “Do No Harm,” illuminates measures the UCLA hospital system began implementing to reduce the potential for accidental “bad things” (my words for the overarching concept). Having this knowledge helps us know what to look for. Hopefully our hospitals have implemented some of these measures so we and our aging parents can take advantage–now 4 years later.

For example: Hand hygiene, infection control. General hearsay is that we can “get things” in the hospital. Isn’t that a reason for the hand sanitizers and latex gloves within reach in every examining room and sanitizers in–or outside–every hospital room? But, for example, do we take advantage of this by checking that hands are washed or sanitized or fresh gloves are put on when a health care person comes into our parents’ hospital room?  The “Do No Harm” article empowers us in this regard.

We learn of a national effort to create a kind of safety net in medicine. A UCLA doctor is quoted as saying  “Our hospitals are very safe. But we can always do more.” UCLA, in particular, has embarked on an ambitious program to enhance patient safety that touches on a variety of areas, including controlling infections, eliminating medication errors, improving incident reporting, and enhancing surgical safety.

Medication errors:  To help prevent errors, UCLA Health System [now has]…a bar-coded medication-administration system. The rationale? Experts say adding bar codes to the drugs given to patients could substantially reduce the number of medication errors by applying an extra layer of oversight to every step in the delivery process. That said, do we check to make certain aging parents are getting the correct medications and dosages? Do we keep a list..even when they aren’t in the hospital?

A personal note: it would seem to make sense to make sure parents (especially when they’re not too “with it” for whatever reason), drink lots of water with pills. Mother (never a big water-drinker) didn’t do this during one hospitalization. Pills more or less collected in her throat someplace, causing bad irritation. Not a medication error –just no one was checking water consumption with pills.

Incident reporting: Visitors occasionally take tumbles in hallways; equipment sometimes malfunctions; and patients may have bad reactions to their medication.

To track such mishaps, hospitals in California must report any “adverse events” to the state’s Department of Health Services. UCLA has implemented a cutting-edge computerized reporting system that can be accessed from any computer terminal within the hospitals and affiliated clinics and by those involved in patient care, from physicians and nurses to respiratory therapists and housekeeping personnel.

This computerized system also has an event-reporting system to improve its own monitoring of the quality of care at its hospitals and clinics. This system eliminates the time-consuming paperwork to report “adverse events” and the necessity to deliver the report to a central office in a timely manner.

Says Tod Barry, quality director for Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. “If people are comfortable in reporting, they’re more likely to report.

Read the article in its entirety: “Do No Harm” article

–February 2013  Hospitalization and the Importance of Family post.–Quality website links for everything  hospital-related throughout California and the USA



2 thoughts on “Hospitalized Aging Parents: Avoiding the Accidental “Bad Things”

    • Thank you Aimee. Since my 2nd husband died (6/21; first in 6/16 (50 year marriage), I am now among the aging people I wrote about–relearning from MY previous posts.
      Because my senior advisors at that time have died but were so helpful, I am revisiting my past posts, finding many surprisingly helpful because they work in reverse if older people value staying as independent as possible.
      I don’t yet know how to easily use WordPress’s new blog-writing format. It’s more difficult for my older brain. But I go to my old blogs’ header for subject matter, which happily is still almost valid. (I only say “almost,” because I haven’t reread all and am super-careful about what I write.)
      Hope you’ll return again to the old blogs and thanks again for commenting.

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