By Judd Matsunaga, Esq.
In my last Pacific Citizen column, “How to Survive a Hospital Stay,” I stated that I have compiled a list of five Medical Survival Tips that should increase your chances of returning home safely and free from “medical errors.” To review, Medical Survival Tip #1 is to Question Your Doctor, and Medical Survival Tip #2 is to Get a Second Opinion.
Medical Survival Tip #3: Keep a Log Book
You’ve heard the saying, “Doctors make the worst patients.” I thought it was because doctors often feel as though they “know better” than anyone else. However, after my research for these articles, I want to propose an alternate theory: Doctors make the worst patients because they know just how many things that can go wrong.
“What do you mean, ‘How many things that can go wrong?’ ” In a nutshell — nurses. Now, I realize there are many wonderful, caring, compassionate nurses who really are trying to make a difference (thank God for them). But if you asked one of them, they would probably tell you about the incompetent nurses they have to work with.
For example, I read about one nurse who was supposed to give a patient one (1) dose of a medication four times a day. Instead, probably because he was lazy, he gave the patient four doses of medication all at once. That patient was given a lethal dose of drugs. But, if a nurse sees you writing down his or her name in your log book, guess what? You’re going to get better care.
In fact, the whole hospital staff will notice that you are keeping a log book. All of a sudden, you’re going to get better and more accurate attention because they don’t want to get sued and have your log book entered as evidence of any incompetence.
Keep a log book. Write down every intervention that they are doing to you, e.g., what time, what day, what dose, what orifice. Write it all down. And then they will start administering medications at the right time in the right dose.
Medical Survival Tip #4: Get an Advocate
If you’re the patient, you’re going to be busy resting and recovering. It’s very difficult to sit there being sick or recovering from surgery and also defend your rights and defend your health against this system that threatens to kill you. You need an advocate.
Before your hospital admission, ask a friend or family member to help monitor your care, since you might be too ill or distracted to do it on your own. Your hospital helper can assert your needs and preferences, ask questions, record the answers, retain copies of key medical documents and advocate for you if problems arise.
Have your advocate help navigate the hospital quagmire and forge a relationship with a medical professional in the hospital who can act as your point person. Be prepared to oversee the medications, double check the dosage and interface with the doctors and nurses. And make sure that advocate, i.e., that family member, has the “backbone” to stand up against medical staff.
Since you (the patient) may not be able to write down everything in your log book, have your advocate write down everything the doctor and nurses say. Ask him or her to write down every intervention that they do — what time, what day, what dose, what orifice. Write it all down. The hospital staff will notice and hopefully will stay at the “top of their game.”
Medical Survival Tip #5: Get Out as Quickly as You Can
Hospitals are a high-risk place to be, and you should get out of there as soon as possible. Don’t linger in the hospital longer than you need to just because it’s covered by the insurance or because you like the automatic bed and daytime television. You’re going to do better at home, and it’s a more sanitary place to be compared to the hospital.
Where do all the sick people go? They go to the hospital, not to your house. So, as long as you’re not compromising your health, get away from the hospital as quickly as you can. Even the doctors, nurses and other hospital staff are carrying germs around, spreading infections from one patient to another. Insist on clean hands. Anyone who touches you, including your visitors, should first wash his or her hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Remember, hospitals are like “Superbug Central.” At least 2 million people in the U.S. acquire serious bacterial infections that are resistant to one or more antibiotics.
According to the Center for Disease Control, 18 superbugs are identified as “urgent, serious and concerning threats” to humankind.
Furthermore, at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections.
Judd Matsunaga is the founding attorney of Elder Law Services of California, a law firm that specializes in Medi-Cal Planning, Estate Planning and Probate. He can be contacted at (310) 348-2995 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Pacific Citizen or JACL. The information presented does not constitute legal or tax advice and should not be treated as such.