Sorry that my blogs have been a little lean since Thanksgiving…

It hasn’t just been the Holiday fun & festivities that have made me distant. Unfortunately, it has instead been an unexpected tragedy that has befallen my family and kept me pre-occupied with other responsibilities. Here’s what happened.

My parents, who are both age 80, still reside in the same large house that we 5 children grew up in. They have been living relatively independent until a recent freak accident occurred. In the blink of an eye, my mother fell down their entire flight of steps. She is lucky to be alive from this terrible fall and to have avoided paralysis, a broken neck or worse. Thankfully my dad was home and 911 responded promptly. The fall did create some serious damages for her though: fractured ribs and elbow and ankle and hand sprains. These injuries required her to be committed to intensive care unit for 3 weeks.

Her stay in ICU brought back terrible memories of our time with Lauren in ICU: The myriad of doctors, at all levels, treating her for her various ailments; trying to figure out who was “quarterbacking” her care plan; who was ordering what tests and did all of care team know results, etc. Thankfully, my youngest sister Rose is an RN and she knew what questions to ask as a patient advocate and how to demand care. Still, it was a like a 3 ring circus of activity.

But what was most disturbing and frightening was the fact that while hospitalized, my mother contracted a nasty infection from that facility, that was life threatening. This too parallels what happened to our precious Lauren. She died, not from her surgery, but from a hospital acquired staph infection in her wound! Thankfully, my mother pulled through her infection, but it has left her in a more weakened state.

As of this writing, she has been discharged from that well known hospital and has been in a reputable rehabilitation center for 3 weeks now. It is expected that she will require at least another month of PT and OT therapy to regain the strength that she lost due to her extended hospital confinement and her injuries.

Even now though, at this regarded rehabilitation facility, it requires both my sister and I to advocate for her and to keep a careful eye on what her treatment plan is. What medications are being dispensed, what therapy is being utilized, what the prognosis is, etc.

This is precisely what I talk about in my book – the need to take a hands on approach when you or a loved one are under medical care.

It is imperative to keep a careful eye on the patient’s care plan and to demand communication and involvement with the process. Believe me, if you don’t ask, they won’t offer you much information.

It is ironic that this tragedy just happened, and that it requires me to revisit one of the themes of my book, so soon after the completion of my writing it.

The theme and message is this – To assure that you are receiving the best possible medical care, you have to learn to either be a self  advocate, have a qualified family member (like my RN sister), as an advocate, or hire a patient medical advocate (like my friend Betty Long, RN of Guardian Nurses).

By the way, I also encourage readers, and especially seniors, to have a medical power of attorney in place, a living will in place and possibly a durable power of attorney in place to insure that their wishes and needs are met properly and that their affairs will be handled in a responsible manner.

PS – The worst place to have these documents is in your safety deposit box. Why? Because who will know that they are there and how will the responsible parties get to them when they are needed?

Make getting your affairs in order a good New Year’s Resolution!