How to Support Solo Patients During Covid
CampaignZERO’s Community Educators Share Advice
For now, patients have to manage doctor appointments, outpatient surgeries and hospital stays entirely on their own. Polite, assertive family-member Care Partners may be able to bend this new policy a bit, especially if their presence is respectful and helpful to the medical staff.
Supporting Your Loved Ones’ Medical Care
(for Covid or Any Other Treatment)
Health care practices and protocols have changed significantly in response to Covid-19. Following is a quick checklist of new, practical tips for navigating care during this deadly pandemic from CampaignZERO Community Educators, all of whom are professional Patient Advocates.
For Doctor Appointments:
Worried about your loved one managing a doctor’s appointment entirely on their own? Just show up! Plead your by describing how your help benefits the care provider! Say, for example… (if it applies to you):
- I can make this appointment go quickly/efficiently for the doctor: I am prepared with questions that my loved one is concerned about.
- I will take notes so I can explain everything later to my loved one and we won’t have to call your office to bother you.
- I can help make sure my loved one understands and adheres to the doctor’s instructions, so s/he gets the best results from the doctor’s time today.
Explain your own role further, as necessary, especially if you prefer to gain permission to accompany your loved one ahead of an appointment, admission, or during an inpatient stay.
- My goal is to help my loved one be compliant in the care plan.
- My goal is to be your extra set of eyes and ears on the care team (meaning you can help the nurses, doctors, and staff because you know they are stretched).
- Show an attitude of gratitude: be of service to them and to your loved one.
For Hospital Stays:
When your loved one needs a hospital stay and you can’t be there, call the nurse’s station every day at the same time for an update.
- The best time is 2-5pm.
- Try to talk to the same nurse each time.
- Wrap up each call with: “I’ll call again tomorrow at the same time.” S/he will then be prepared to share an update with you.
- Wrap up each call with a sincere thanks.
- NOTE: If you can’t connect with nursing staff, reach out to others for daily updates. Case managers, the Hospital Advocate office, or a primary care doctor are all great resources.
Be mindful of how busy nurses are: be sure to express your respect and empathy for all their daily challenges, especially during this time. Try asking or saying:
- How is your day going?
- Are you getting any “me time” for yourself?
- I know you’re so busy, so I doubly appreciate your update on how (loved one) is doing.
Be organized when you call with your checklist of topics/questions you want to cover, such as:
- “Your questions about test results, new tests and medications/why?
- Your loved one’s vital signs: ask about the trends… Improving? Same? Worrisome?
- Results of the daily case conference about your loved one.
- Your loved one’s spirits. Any concerns s/he has shared with the care team?
- Ask about the patient load/”census” on the unit. Ask nurse if s/he feels it’s a safe load or not? If climbing or at an unsafe level, you may want to contact your loved one’s primary care doctor about possible transfer to another hospital or some other solution.
- Ask about daily rounds: can you join via phone or tablet?
- If needed, ask for help to connect to your loved one via phone or tablet.
If you want to see your loved one in the hospital, strengthen your case:
- “I understand and respect your protocols and will take all precautions.”
- Mention if you are a licensed medical professional yourself.
- Bring your own PPE — and tell them you have it. Supplies are on their mind!
- Again, state the benefits of your being there. Think about how you can help in ways that make their lives or jobs easier and also offer comfort and support to your loved one.
- Be aware of cues that your loved one may be suffering emotional stress from lack of social support — make the case that your loved one’s physical condition may improve from in-person contact and support from you.
These are trying times for everyone!
Try your best for an attitude of gratitude.
- If you are allowed to visit your loved one in the hospital, consider bringing a treat for the nursing staff: cookies, a basket of apples, or a box of Starbucks coffee and KIND bars are just a few ideas.
- Following up with a thank you note would be gracious, too. Consider writing to the hospital’s Medical Director and CEO to cite any staff members who’ve been particularly wonderful to your loved one or you.