Conscious Aging: Supporting a Friend in the Hospital

I was with my friend Louise in the hospital for three days: Monday she had a knee replacement, Tuesday she began to bounce back but then had a setback, and Wednesday at about 6pm we left for home.

At the very end we had to wait for somebody to come from somewhere with a revised prescription, and we couldn’t leave until that was in hand. Like Godot, it seemed as if the bearer of the treasured written order took a long time to come.

I’m not really so good at sitting around waiting.

My overwhelming impression of the experience, from the vantage point of the prospective caregiver, is that hospitals are complex systems set up for the welfare and safety of patients, the imperatives of medical insurance, and the priorities of the providers — with doctors on top of the heap and everyone else part of the team, but something of a lesser part. The hierarchy is not necessarily in that order: patients, then insurance companies, then providers. I’m not really sure what the hierarchy is. Beyond that, each person in a hospital has a bucket of responsibilities, and some are a little prickly about being asked things that are outside of their bucket.

I know, they’re busy. They really are.

As a prospective caregiver with very little experience of hospitals, surgeries, strong narcotics, and the course of surgical recuperation, I had lots of questions. Mostly my questions were received respectfully. Occasionally someone would get really starchy with me, as in “this isn’t my first rodeo.” Yup. I got that the minute I walked in the door. It was my first rodeo, or close, and that was the basis for my questions.

I’ve really been very blessed and lucky not to have been in the hospital very much. I sort of plug along, with the occasional antibiotic needed here or there, but nothing more involved than that.

I don’t really ever want to be The Patient.

I’m writing this while tired after a very long three days. I think I’ll have more perspective tomorrow.


2 thoughts on “Conscious Aging: Supporting a Friend in the Hospital

  1. Fatigue aside, you are on target with the hierarchy and running of hospitals – much improved but still grinding away.

  2. for Phyllis: Part of me was attending to Louise, of course, but part was watching the hospital process. She was in a very good hospital, in a building devoted entirely to orthopedic surgeries and issues. Care was very good. But between being busy with many patients and change in shift and many different people doing pieces of her care, there was a little slippage here and there. That’s why a patient needs someone there to say, “But the last person in said this — why the change?” Or, “someone said X needs to happen before Y, and you’re here to do Y and X hasn’t happened yet.” At the very end, because of a meds change, we were waiting for some person to come from somewhere with a written narcotics prescription, which evidently can’t be sent electronically. No info on who and from where and for how long we’d be held up — that about sent me over the edge, after three very long days. But, Louise is now home and all good.

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