A personal account of a recent hospital stay that led the author to wonder how many 60-plussers have experienced discomfort in similar circumstances
“A recent hospital experience left me with a feeling of general discomfort when it comes to being cared for in a hospital environment. The experience ended in my discharging myself early from hospital after an incident that left me distressed and traumatised. I believed that I could not continue my treatment in an environment that I considered to be toxic”.
This incident led to much self-reflection, as well as reflection around the hospital system and specifically the care in general, reflection on how many 60-plussers have experienced uncomfortable hospital stays, or experienced distress and trauma while in hospital. However, after speaking to many people about the incident I experienced, I realised that this is not a stand-alone issue. The majority of people I spoke to had experienced much the same or had family or friends who had experienced something similar. Some had reported their experiences to their doctors or the hospital they attended. The majority of cases that I have been told about have gone unreported and undetected. I am grappling with the reason why? Is it because one doesn’t want to make a fuss? Is it because the feeling of discomfort appears to be trivial in the major scheme of things? Is it because one is afraid of reprisal from those who are caring for you?
I’m sure we all agree that the majority of nurses are very professional in their approach. They are kind and helpful and likely to be tired and stressed. They have a huge workload – one understands that. They have competing priorities and many patients to look after. I would venture to say that most of us go out of our way to be courteous and pleasant in our requests – why wouldn’t we?
We also need to remember that most patients are vulnerable when they are in hospital. They are there because they are either very sick, or having some kind of procedure/operation. All they are needing is to be treated with care and with dignity. And if you are not cared for in this way, then what to do about it?
After much reflection and research, we believe that the following is the best way to deal with situations such as this:
If you believe that you are not getting the care you deserve, or you are unhappy with how you are being treated, then you need to speak up. We are not suggesting that you complain about everything – that’s unrealistic, given the number of patients in a ward. But speak up if you believe you need to. If it’s uncomfortable to speak to the nurse – possibly because she/he is the source of the problem, then take the issue to the sister who manages the staff in that unit. If that doesn’t help, then ask to speak to the Unit Manager or the Patient Experience Manager. Don’t brush things under the carpet – every patient should be afforded dignified care while in hospital.
Other good advice received via a retired nursing sister, and a counsellor, is to ensure you have an advocate when you are admitted to hospital. If you are in pain, medicated, and not thinking clearly, then you need someone who is concerned for your well-being who can spend time with you while you are in hospital, acting as your advocate. This could be a spouse, a son or daughter, a family member or friend. A good health advocate is a person who knows you well, someone who is calm, assertive and can ask questions or make requests on your behalf and ensure that you are receiving patient-centred care.
We would love to hear about your experiences in hospital, good or not so good. Please either use the comments section below, or send us an email – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author: Marilyn Hallett, YEI