Your Health Matters

J. Black photo 2010By Dr. Judith Black

Prepare now to make your hospital stay is less stressful

You know the saying: “A hospital is no place to be sick.” Eventually everyone must face the possibility of being hospitalized someday. With that in mind, I’m sure you have questions about what to expect. “How do I prepare for a stay at the hospital? What are some things I really need to think about?” Let’s take a few minutes to learn how you can make sure your hospital stay is less stressful.

Be involved and proactive about your health

Research shows that patients who take part in decisions about their health care are more likely to get better faster. As a patient, you can make your hospital stay a better experience by being an active, involved and informed member of your health care team. As a practicing geriatrician with 37 years of medical experience, I hope my advice will ease any anxieties surrounding your next hospital stay.

Unfortunately, being admitted to the hospital can be a stressful time and most hospital stays for people with Medicare are unplanned and unpredictable. However, if you do have the luxury of knowing about a hospital stay beforehand, I urge you to prepare in advance because careful planning can result in better outcomes and give you peace of mind.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Before going to the hospital, consider choosing a health partner, usually a friend or relative, who will work closely with you to understand and help plan your care. I also suggest that you make sure you arrange for transportation to and from the hospital; review and take a list of all your medications with you; prepare a list of key health information; and prepare a living will. You can check with your doctor, attorney or health insurance provider for information on how to complete one.

Once you are admitted, there are some helpful thoughts to keep in mind during your hospital stay. I frequently remind my patients to make sure they understand procedures that are being performed and to do their part to help prevent infections by washing their hands frequently and keeping people who are sick at a distance. Be proactive and listen to your body. Let your doctors or nurses know how you feel and tell someone right away if something doesn’t feel right.

Know your medications and how to take them

Upon discharge from the hospital, I’d like to offer some final thoughts to keep in mind. These suggestions can go a long way in decreasing your chances of being readmitted to the hospital.

Frequently, patients forget to bring their medications home with them upon discharge. Remember and make sure that you leave the hospital with your prescribed medications and that you understand what to do with them when you get home. Your health partner can be a huge help to you during this time.

Next, take time to schedule your follow-up appointments. If you are unable to do this, ask a friend or relative to schedule them for you. Remember that list of medications I suggested taking to the hospital? Now that you are home, compare the same list to any new medications you have been prescribed and make note of it. If you need follow-up care at another facility, now is the perfect time to identify and make arrangements for transportation.

Preparation is the key to your peace of mind

Let’s face it, no one really looks forward to a hospital stay. But with a positive attitude and careful preparation before-hand, you can significantly reduce your anxieties and allow yourself to concentrate on getting better faster…because your health matters.

Dr. Judith Black, medical director for Senior Markets at Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia. 

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