You will be in the hospital.
Maybe not today, but one day.
Maybe you’ll be at the side of an aging parent, maybe you’ll be listening to the labored breathing of a sick child, maybe you’ll be there to comfort a friend, but there is always the chance you’ll be the one in the bed counting the ceiling tiles.
In any case, you’ll be praying for things to be the way they were before.
I’ve been pretty lucky, after my first trip to a hospital for a tonsillectomy, I managed to stay away from doctors and hospitals for a good long time. Then hospitals visits began to piggy back.
It started the morning my mother’s blood pressure caused her to collapse. Shortly thereafter, she was transported to a large hospital in a large city, where she was scheduled for surgery. I spent countless hours at that hospital until her release. Most of those hours were spent waiting for information and wondering about outcomes. By the time it was over, I’d learned a few things, but by the time I’d knew them, the information was no longer useful.
At the hospital, you get satellite TV, room service and plenty of rest, but it’s no vacation.
We buy health insurance to protect us from things we hope will never happen, but there is nothing in any policy to protect us in the moment someone becomes unexpectedly ill or injured. We aren’t familiar with treatments until after we’ve been asked to choose them, and we don’t know their outcomes, until after we’ve made our choices.
Doctors gamble on what they’ve learned through years of training and experience. We gamble on our doctors, but this is not Vegas. What happens in the hospital, shouldn’t keep your loved one in the hospital.
With so many changes affecting healthcare, getting good care can be more challenging than ever before. Because women are often the ones who act as caregivers or advocates for family and friends, I felt an urgency about sharing two books I’ve recently read. Whether you are seeking a diagnosis, facing serious illness, or providing support for someone else with medical issues, I am convinced both of these books will provide invaluable help.
The Take-Charge Patient, and Critical Conditions were both written by Martine Ehrenclou. My association with the author came about because she and I are both writers, with a particular interest in healthcare. We’ve never met, but we’ve dialogued. When she sent me a pre-release copy of her latest book, The Take-Charge Patient: How YOU can get the Best Possible Medical Care. I was hoping it was as savvy, as I’ve come to know her to be. Glancing at the cover, it seemed like common sense information, I was afraid it might be a mediocre book, glued together by a few good ideas, but as soon as I started reading, I was convinced the book is a must-have for anyone wanting to increase their odds of getting the best treatment possible. I knew I had to write about it.
I was aware Martine had written another book, and was only a few pages into this latest title, before I’d Amazon’d her first award-winning book, Critical Conditions: The Essential Hospital Guide to Get Your Loved One Out Alive. Though both came to be because of Martine’s own experiences, it felt as if she had written a story I’d already lived. Her account of dealing with the illness of her mother, was reminiscent of my own experience trying to do what I could, for my ailing mother.
Even years later, I am haunted by some of the decisions made on my mother’s behalf. I will never know if different decisions, or a second opinion might have produced another outcome. My family made our choices based on what we were told, not knowing there were other options. We weren’t given enough information to make fully informed decisions, what was suggested, was what the doctor believed was best.
No matter how competent, committed, or caring health professionals are, they aren’t infallible. When somebody’s life or care is in the hands of others, the sharing of information is absolutely critical. As the cost of providing care continually rises, doctors and nurses are required to see more patients in less time. There simply isn’t time enough for them to devote themselves fully to every case they see. We need to do what we can to give them the information they need to help them decide the best treatments, and we need their best information to make good decisions. The Take-Charge Patient, and Critical Conditions are helpful guides on to how to improve the flow of information.
The author interviewed hundreds of health professionals and patients to put together these must-have manuals. Easy to read (and guaranteed to be a better way to pass time than anything else in the waiting room) both are full of ways to help your doctors and nurses help you, whether or not you have a diagnosis. She offers tips for saving money, as well as suggestions for understanding and making good use of your insurance coverage. The tips within, are easy to employ. Some are basic things like having a list of questions ready for your doctor, or keeping a list of current medications & previous treatments, but there are also lesser known tips like how best to get face-to-face time with your doctor, or suggestions on the best times to schedule procedures or surgeries.
Additionally, Martine’s methodology reminds us that doctors and nurses are human beings who deserve our consideration and respect. Having had the very unfortunate experience of seeing/hearing irate family members disrespectfully addressing medical professionals, I appreciated the underlying reminder of something which should be obvious, the better our rapport with professionals, the more invested they will be in the care for the patient.
There is some overlap between the two books, because The Take Charge Patient is written for the patient,while Critical Conditions was written for the patient’s advocate, but they function nicely as a pair. There are literally hundreds of valuable tips within these books, and while some may seem obvious, when you’re faced with the emotional magnitude and distraction of big issues, it’s very easy to forget small, but important details.
Fortunately, each book ends with an appendix of ready-to-use forms and/or checklists to make things a little easier. This was especially appealing to me, because, though I’m good at keeping information in my head, I’m not very good at keeping lists or organizing small bits of information. Having the all the checklists in one easy place would be invaluable to anyone like me.
These books are intended to help us ask the right questions, talk to the right people, do everything we can to get the best possible treatment, while avoiding very common medical mistakes and mishaps. Whether we are advocating for yourself or somebody else, these books explain how to go from passive to proactive without coming across as demanding.
There is no price that can be attached to health and no frustration greater than the helplessness of not knowing what to do when faced with illness. If you are ever so unfortunate, as to be wondering what you can do for yourself or someone else, having this information close at hand, could make either or both books worth much more than their cost. It is my sincere hope you’ll never need either book, but if you ever need them, I hope you’ll have them.