How to Ensure Your Loved One Gets the Best Care When Hospitalized

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Topics include: Living Well

When a loved one becomes seriously ill, we often feel lost and don’t know what to do to help. In this episode of Patient Power, you’ll learn how to navigate the system to help your critically ill loved one get the treatment they need. The featured guests are Shirley Sherman, a critical care nurse at Virginia Mason Medical Center, and Rick Gregorek, an attorney in Seattle, who shares his experience dealing with his own mother’s illness.

Doctors discovered Rick’s mother had advanced metastatic pancreatic cancer after a routine surgery. Since she lived in Palm Springs, Rick had to travel from Seattle to visit his mother in the hospital almost weekly. She began to suffer from escalating chronic pain. Unless a family member was there, Rick found that the hospital staff would not respond to her requests. He went to talk with the head nurse about the protocol for pain management. She told him the protocol, but Rick pointed out that the protocol wasn’t being followed.

Ms. Sherman explains how things work at her hospital and how to ensure that things run smoothly wherever your loved ones are. She says her patients’ families can have unlimited visiting hours. Physicians, social workers and nurses all go on rounds to visit patients. They work as a team, discussing how the patient is doing, and plan with the patient’s family. Shirley’s team also helps with pre-planning, asking questions like, “Who can we give information to? Who can’t we? Do you have a living will?” Shirley gives suggestions and tips for getting the best care and how to react to a situation if you are unhappy with the care.

Rick stresses that your ill parent needs an advocate to take a leadership position in helping them gather information. He also stresses the importance of pre-planning. Listen to this program for a wealth of information on advocating for your family during the most difficult time in their lives.

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Produced in association with Virginia Mason Medical Center


Andrew Schorr:

Good morning wherever you may be under our kind of, I wouldn’t say warm blanket, but kind of a cozy blanket of fog around Seattle. We are live. I am looking out the window. We had all that sunny weather; now it’s all gone, but it’s warmer, and you don’t need that extra blanket. Welcome wherever you are listening to us on the Internet. I’m Andrew Schorr on Patient Power live every week, the only show on radio where week after week we talk about important health issues.

Sometime it’s a specific illness, and sometimes it’s an issue. Today it’s an issue. It’s that call you don’t want to get. It’s the call where mom or dad, or somebody you care about, who may live far away, is hospitalized, and you know what? You need to get right over there, or you need to get on a plane. You don’t know what you are facing, you are anxious, your heart’s beating, it’s probably pretty serious, and you do not know what’s next. Maybe you don’t know the doctors, you certainly don’t know the nurses, and you are worried about your loved one.

You want to do anything you can to help, but you are kind of a stranger in a strange land unless you're accustomed to that medical center or being in that hospital and kind of knowing the way things work. For most of us it is kind of a black box. We don’t know what is supposed to work. We aren’t familiar with the illness. There are a lot of emotional issues around the family and around what is going on. Then you don’t know where you are. You get off a plane somewhere, and maybe it’s the middle of the night. So it is pretty scary.

Well this sort of thing happened to our dear friend who is on the radio one hour after us every week, Rick Gregorek. Rick is one of the outstanding estate planning attorneys in the Seattle area, with his partner Dennis Brislawn; terrific guys. We chat when we are not on the radio, and Rick was telling me this story one day about when his mom took sick. I wanted him to tell a little bit of that story because it was the call you don’t want to get, and it wasn’t the way it should go at a hospital and even at home, and Rick will explain as we go on what they had to do for home care.

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Page last updated on January 20, 2017