March 5, 2014

Your Advocacy Connection – From the Other Side of the Bedrail

By Kathy Nitz
GolderCare Solutions

Our office sees families on a daily basis that have a loved one hospitalized or in some type of medical setting. We frequently ask questions to ascertain the condition of their family member. There have been times in which I believed these families were not as proactive in securing the appropriate information needed to get the care necessary for their loved one. I mistakenly believed they were less than diligent in their efforts. Because of my recent experience, I now understand that this is not always the case. It is easy to make assumptions when you are not the one experiencing the event.

Recently I was sick. But, as most of us do, I pushed on and didn’t pay attention to my illness. It escalated to the point of passing out on my living room floor and my son calling 911. I was transported to the hospital by ambulance and was admitted. I was there for a week. Because I did not address my illness initially, it became something nearly life-threatening.

So, there I am in the emergency room and very sick. My husband and two teenaged sons are there with me. They don’t know what to ask. The doctor came in with results of tests and told us that I must remain in the hospital. My family doesn’t understand any of this. They don’t know what to ask and are afraid to ask in fear of insulting the physician. It is also daunting to a layperson that has a loved one in a life threatening condition to ask questions. They are vulnerable and as a result, by default, put their trust in “some medical professional.” It was all very confusing, noisy, people rushing in and out, things going on all around us, but nobody knew what questions to ask. My husband was naturally upset over me being sick, as well as, very unfamiliar with the medical “lingo” being thrown at him. I was in no shape to ask anything, let alone understand the answers. By 4:00 a.m., I was in my room and hooked up to a lot of machines. We still were not sure exactly what was happening.

By 7:00 a.m., my GolderCare co-worker and dear friend, Julie Arndt was at my bedside. She was asking my nurses pertinent questions. The doctor came in shortly thereafter. Julie knew what to ask to get the answers and information we needed. She then sought out the doctor later to discuss further testing, referrals to specialists and what plan they had for my care.

Julie’s advocacy was invaluable to me and to my family. She was able to talk to the medical professionals with meaningful questions and discussion. Her experience and persistence was exactly what I needed to understand what had
happened, what was going to happen and what we were looking at in the upcoming days. During the next few days, there were several telephone calls to various members of our GolderCare Team discussing what was going on, what I should be asking and what should be happening. Without this advocacy, I would have felt helpless and vulnerable to whatever was happening. However, with the help of my co-workers who are professional advocates, I was empowered to participate in my own healthcare and as a result; my family and I felt confident in my treatment. Contrary to many who believe a professional advocate can create an adversarial relationship with the medical team, I found it served only to enhance my experience. This was a time when I found myself quite vulnerable and NOT in control, something new for me. With everyone working collectively for me, I experienced the best possible outcome, great care by a caring knowledgeable medical team and great advocacy. Heartfelt thanks go out to all!

This experience has only proven to me, once again, how very important it is for one to have an advocate with them when they are vulnerable in a medical situation. This may be a friend, family or a professional advocate. I will never again make the assumption a family isn’t asking all the critical questions. My experience has honed my sensitivity to how overwhelming it is to find oneself in such a position. I was just really glad that I had somebody to call!

Kathy Nitz is a Benefits Advocate for GolderCare Solutions. She uses her wealth of knowledge and experience in benefits planning to advocate for seniors and those who are disabled.

Filed Under: Health & Wellness