Taking Charge of Your Hospital Stay

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If you’re chronically or seriously ill, tending to self-care needs is never easy.

Putting on that hospital gown and wristband and other seemingly easy tasks can become daunting. Getting a second opinion, figuring out what your eye on what’s going on, to help you make decisions, and to ensure the decisions you make are being communicated properly to those caring for you,” says Correoso.

And, she says, you and your friend need to prepare for this as much in advance as possible.

“Have a detailed discussion with the person you choose as your health care advocate, ideally long before hospitalization becomes necessary. And even consider making a written list of what you do and do not want your care to include,” Correoso tells WebMD.

Then, she says, trust that the person you have chosen will follow through on your behalf.

“People are funny sometimes. They say they want to trust someone but in reality they really only trust themselves, which is why it’s important to choose someone you feel comfortable with and who you can trust. And then trust them!” says Correoso.

If that person is not able to help you when the time comes — or if you simply don’t have anyone to rely on — Burke tells WebMD that nearly all hospitals have a hierarchy of staff members who can advocate on your behalf.

“It starts with the patient advocate, and most major hospitals have them. And they can not only help you to mediate your grievances but also help to make certain that your rights as a patient are being respected,” says Burke.

Step 3: Learn Your Rights

When it comes to preparing for a hospital stay, experts say perhaps nothing is more important than realizing you do have rights as a patient. And taking the time to learn what they are can serve you well in many situations.

Among the most important of those entitlements, says Burke, is the right to receive an explanation of any treatment being prescribed, and the right to ask for that explanation as many times as necessary until you fully comprehend it. Also important to note: You can ask for that explanation in your native language, even if you speak English.

Perhaps most important, says Burke, is to remember every patient has the right to refuse any treatment — including tests.

“If you don’t understand why a test was ordered, or why a having a baby — once came with a minimal 10- day hospital stay, Reinhard tells WebMD that today, patients having even the most difficult and complex surgeries are often discharged within three or four days.

“Recuperation that used to take place in a hospital must now take place at home, and patients need to be aware of that, and to be aware that they will likely be going home long before they themselves feel they are ready,” she says.

While admittedly it’s difficult to prepare for a hospitalization that is unexpected, Reinhard says if you have a chronic illness or you’re simply getting on in years, it’s important to focus on what your daily needs are, and think about how you’d cope if you weren’t functioning at full capacity.

Then, she says, try to figure out ways to compensate and make whatever arrangements you can before going into the hospital.

“If your hospitalization takes you by complete surprise, then use as many hospital resources as you can, including social workers and patient advocates, to prepare for your homecoming,” says Reinhard.

If you think you will be unable to care for yourself when you do get home, Burke says ask about rehabilitation facilities or even nursing home care, until you can get back on your feet.

Most important, say all our experts: Be tip-of-the-tongue familiar with what your insurance policy covers, and make sure you can quickly lay your hands on all documentation if needed.

Says Burke, “The more you know about what to expect before you are in the hospital, the easier and more comfortable your hospital stay, and your recuperation, will be.”