Living the Vintage Years: Rx for quality health care begins with education
I walked into the room in the middle of a loud argument.
My relative’s roommate in a health care facility was angry with staff for not getting him bathed and dressed by lunchtime. He was still in bed in his nightclothes. When one of his relatives came to visit, he told her what had happened, and she reported his grievance to the facility’s nurse and administrator.
Ever since, he has been dressed and groomed at a reasonable morning hour.
It pays to have an advocate to watchdog and speak up on behalf of a hospital patient or health care facility resident.
Even when visiting a doctor, it is wise to have a trusted buddy accompany you for support and to take notes and ask questions you might not think to ask. Choose someone who is objective and will not just hear what he or she wants to hear. Also, the appointment buddy should not be an excitable person who will create drama in the examining room instead of accurately recording notes.
I have played the role of appointment buddy numerous times. Being a naturally inquisitive person, I always find questions to ask on behalf of the patient.
In addition, I have had occasions to serve as an advocate, complaining to staff that my relative or friend did not get the food he ordered, his room and bathroom were not cleaned or his laundry vanished.
Many older adults cannot or will not speak up and need someone to assert their rights for them.
Whether one is a hospital patient or a resident at a health care facility, he or she has specific rights that must be provided in writing during the admission process. If a list of rights is not forthcoming, be sure to ask for a copy.
In addition to the rights mandated by Medicare and the state of Pennsylvania, most facilities also maintain their own lists of rights and responsibilities.
Many individuals admitted to health care facilities may not realize they have the right to choose their own physician and pharmacy. They do not have to use the facility’s doctor or pharmacy.
Patients and residents have the right to be informed of their medical condition and of any changes.
They have the right to refuse treatment.
They have the right to privacy, including communicating and meeting with anyone they choose, including legal representatives.
Their mail should be delivered unopened.
Curtains must be used during bathing and dressing.
Bathroom doors must be closed while the room is in use.
Patients and residents have the right to use their own possessions and clothes and to retire and rise when they choose, within reason.
They have the right to be free from restraints, except when ordered by a physician for a limited time to protect themselves or others from injury.
They also have the right to voice a grievance without retaliation.
They have the right to participate in their chosen religious activities.
They have the right to accept or refuse visitors and the right to inform staff not to share information about their condition with callers or visitors.
As a patient, resident or advocate, do not be afraid to speak up when something seems amiss.
It is not out of line, for example, to politely remind a staff member to wash hands or put on gloves. I had to do this recently. Medical staff and aides need to know we are watching.
Patients and residents of health care facilities have not only the right but the obligation to participate in their own care. Knowledge is power. Become familiar with your medical rights, and do not hesitate to exercise them.