Hospitalization Tips That Make a Difference: For Aging Parents, Grandparents, Our Children, and Us

     I recently learned that a friend who worked in the health professions needed surgery.  He recently turned 65, is medicare eligible, but elected to remain with his managed care plan. The hospital he selected was one he knew and liked, was near his home, and was approved by his plan.
     Surgery was successful, but was followed by an infection, then other complications. His family insisted he be moved to a larger, more comprehensive hospital for additional treatment. This took a lot of doing–was not easily accomplished.
     After well over a month and several weeks in the larger hospital, he is in rehab for physical therapy, but health issues remain and he’s very weak. There’s conversation about his returning to the comprehensive hospital.

This sobering chain of events calls attention to:

1. a slogan
2. advice, gained from Dr.Susan Love’s (surgeon and prominent breast cancer prevention advocate) hospital experience about the importance of family.
3. information from Jon La Pook, MD (NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia U. Medical Center and Chief Medical Correspondent for CBS News) about how to get optimal hospital care.

1. WHERE YOU’RE TREATED FIRST MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center’s slogan (goes back to the 1990s if not earlier).

2. The IMPORTANCE OF FAMILY MEMBERS WHILE HOSPITALIZED.  NY Times 2/19/13 Science Section interview, Susan Love’s Illness Gives New Focus to Her Cause. Dr. Love discusses the 4-week ordeal following her bone marrow transplant and the fact that family members “offered round the clock support,” advocated for her during that time “when she wasn’t very articulate,” and the fact that one family member “slept in the hospital every night.”

While the article initially focuses on Dr. Love’s reasons for devoting her efforts to the cause of disease rather than the medicines to treat it, we learn about the importance of family, which translates into good advice for all of us.

Likewise, Marti Weston shares a personal experience as she blogs about the importance of family in her 2/9/13 post  Elder in Hospital. Does a Family Member Need to be There, Too? The bottom line is “yes.”  Marti gives specifics about why and about certain things/actions family members can do/take (which includes sleeping at the hospital) to avert problems.

3. OPTIMAL HOSPITAL CARE. Dr. Jon La Pook’s TV interview on CBS (following  NY-Presbyterian/Columbia U Medical Center’s earning #7 Best Hospital honors in the latest US News Best Hospital’s edition) gives the excellent advice about how to get optimal hospital care these days.

For example, Dr. La Pook stresses the importance of communication between the patient’s regular doctor and the hospital’s doctor or the hospitalist, emphasizing it needs to be “a good hand-off” and likening it to the passing of the baton in a relay. You don’t want the baton dropped.

He opens our eyes to to basic, but critical, things like hand-washing “it could save your life;” tells you what to be on the lookout for; and introduces new terms ie. “electronic healthcare buddy.” Link to this enlightening interview:

This information can benefit all generations, as we try to help parents age well.

Note-New: Check out “Of Current Interest”(right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities about cancer, dementia, Parkinson’s, plus some fun stuff–to help parents age well.

Wise Words: Pearls of Wisdom from our 99-year-old Sr. Advisor

99-year-old at tea room

Sr. Advisor, 99, at tea room

Advice and Ideas about Life and Aging:
9 Original Sayings

Original sayings must be in Sr. Advisor R’s DNA. One of her mother’s sayings, “Do the best you can, angels can do no more,” has appeared in previous posts. Wisdom…based on many year’s of living. R’s mother died in her early 90’s. R will be 100 in September.  (Sr. Advisor R tab above has more information.)

Yesterday she invited 3 women for lunch and tea (including myself) at the Rose Tea Room. She was driven over by the other two guests–both much younger.  She had made all the arrangements for the luncheon. Our conversation was stimulating and included lots of laughs.

Something to laugh about

This wrapping paper’s design is something to laugh about

When the conversations are long enough, we’re treated to some of R’s sayings. Wisdom–from one who has lived a long life and paid attention.

1.  In today’s world there are three things you can count on: flowers, music,  and animals (to bring joy).

2.  Life is good; it’s the people who mess it up.

3.  As we live our lives, we write our own history.

4.  Don’t abuse yourself. You get enough from the outside.

5.  Know when to say “no.”

6.  As you age it is helpful to simplify your life.

7.  Don’t expect anything and you won’t be disappointed.

8.  Don’t assume. 

9.  Take care of yourself or you won’t be able to take care of anything else.

Because R values independence to such a high degree, “take care of yourself” has been a major motivator in her old age. We have also heard and read from many sources how important this is for family caregivers. When we hear “take care of yourself…” from someone who has navigated life for 99 years most successfully by anyone’s standards, do we take heed? These words are clearly meant for us as well.

Related: 2014 research: Wisdom’s Importance in Successful Aging

Help Aging Parents: A 98-year-old Teaches Us About Them and About Us–2

Continued from Saturday…

Eating. As we study the menu R decides on a cup of soup and fish and chips, telling me how much she loves soup and about the 2 delicious new soups (lentil w/ vegetables and chicken, vegetables et al.) she found at Trader Joe’s. She always keeps soup on hand,  because–like perhaps all older people–she likes it, it’s nutritious, and it’s  easy to prepare and clean up after. It’s also comforting in winter. I know, in his later years, Dad loved soup. It was often his lunch. My bet is, R and Dad are not alone when is comes to enjoying a tasty bowl of soup.

Treating yourself. Ordering fish and chips, which are of course salted and fried, produces the “don’t abuse myself” saying from my previous post. R eats “simply” at home, she reiterates, but treats herself when she’s out. The fish and chips are a treat A discussion of salt follows.

Using common sense. R has been careful about salt intake for decades–long before it was popular. In her 50’s she realized her ankles were swelling and she decided to cut down on the salt which, it turns out, eliminated the swelling. “No doctor ever told me to cut down,” she says,”it was just common sense….I always say Take Care of Yourself or You Can’t Take Care of Anything Else.” (And you’ll end up needing to have someone take care of you.)

Money. As we order lunch and note the price of the lunch specials, the rising cost of food and the value of food coupons surfaces. R saves coupons, knowing she’ll then have additional monies for other things. She still takes care of her finances. It’s a responsibility that keeps her mind sharp. She volunteered a few years ago that when it became too much, she’d ask her son to take over. But so far, no request. R strongly feels that when you give in and give up things because they become difficult, you begin to lose some control and that can snowball.

Relationships. Don’t “us girls” usually end up talking about people when we’re out having lunch together? Well, we did and I learned R coined a new saying she has shared with her countless younger-than-we-are friends who discuss their family problems (especially in-laws who are, it turns out, aging parents). You can think anything you want, just don’t say it.” R elaborates: think whatever you want, as much as you want (it’s a relief to voice it to yourself), just keep it to yourself and it won’t ever cause problems…and may even help you work out some problems.

R has concluded, based on her 98 years on this earth: Life is good, it’s the people that mess it up.”  

Dependable pleasure. As the world seems to be changing so rapidly with bad news and more unpredictability than she’s ever known, R takes heart in the fact: “There are 3 things today we can count on”: Animals, Music, and Flowers.” Lunch ends. We walk back to the car surrounded by the gorgeous flowers.