Holiday Hospital Dangers Spell HERO for Patient Advocates

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heroThere is no time like the present to keep your clients out of the hospital. Just raising the issue may make you a hero to them.

I realize how dramatic that sounds, but bear with me here.

Think about any workplace you’ve ever worked in during the holidays. Employees, even customers, are not nearly as focused on the work-at-hand as they are during non-holiday times. They may be taking sick days or personal days off (shopping and baking take precedence!), they may be leaving work early to see their kids in the Holiday Concert at school.  They may be laughing and joking about how someone behaved at the office party the night before, or maybe they are distracted by thoughts of the shopping that isn’t yet done, or the in-laws (who they never really get along with) who are arriving tomorrow.

And that’s the point. There are dozens of time and thought-consuming distractions during holiday times. Then, as the holiday date draws closer, the most senior staff members (if not everyone) begin checking out for days or weeks of vacation time. Important questions go on a shelf until those folks return to work. Less senior staff, or part-timers, are the ones left to make snap decisions when called for, no matter how dire those decisions are. They make them to the best of their ability, but there’s always a question about whether they are making the right decision.

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A New Tool for Choosing Providers – and You Can Help

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If you aren’t aware of the Society for Participatory Medicine, you should be.  The organization’s membership is comprised of people who work or seek healthcare who promote participation, collaboration, cooperation and empowerment of all parties involved in the practice of medicine. Yes – people like us. You may be more familiar with the group if I tell you that the “e-patient” movement started with the SPM.

Importantly – members include patients, caregivers and others who are not necessarily traditional participants – and yes, advocates.  It truly lives up to its name:  PARTICIPATORY.

We, as advocates, are too keenly aware that our clients often run into roadblocks from providers who don’t want them to participate, or ask questions, or include an outside person – an advocate – in their care.

That line of demarcation is very clear to us:

  • Doctors and other providers who welcome participation
  • Doctors and other providers who don’t

One of the initiatives the Society has been working on was just launched, and it’s a tool we advocates can use for our clients.  Just as importantly, it’s a tool we advocates can contribute to, too.  At this juncture, that contribution may be the more important aspect.

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Professionalism Ratchets Up a Notch at the 2012 NAHAC Conference

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While Superstorm Sandy made an attempt to put the kibosh on this year’s NAHAC Conference (National Association of Health Advocacy Consultants), she could not dampen the spirits, nor the passion or professionalism of this year’s gathering.

… proving, once again, that you can’t slow down this advocacy freight train.

While I understand that a handful of folks didn’t make the trip (some from storm-torn areas), the crowd was almost as large as it might have been if no storm ever tried to stand in the way.  As it turned out, at least a half-dozen folks from the NYC / NJ / Southern Connecticut area made the effort to be there because the hotel had a hot shower and internet – which they didn’t have at home (yet!)  The Hyatt was happy to accommodate.

My overall observation of the event?

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Advocate for Patients and the Environment, Too

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Among the dozens of details that needed attention after my father died, was figuring out what to do with the virtual pharmacy we found in his apartment.  Dad was a firm believer of better living through chemistry – and he had dozens of prescription bottles, supplements and vitamins, patches and more, in the bathroom, the kitchen and next to his desk.  I think CVS could have stocked up from his stash.

Among them were drugs he had taken that hadn’t worked – so the entire rest of the prescription just got put away.  We also found dozens of herbal supplements he had tried over the years ranging from dandelion weed, to pomegranate capsules, from controlled substances like hydrocodone and oxycontin, to the leftovers of some heavy duty prostate cancer drugs.

We had to dispose of them, of course.

The social worker and nurse from hospice came by to log the amount of the remaining pain meds they had prescribed in his last few weeks – but they were not allowed (state law I think?) to take the leftovers with them. I asked how they suggested we dispose of them, and the nurse replied, “Just flush them.”

I almost fell over.  Flushing drugs is one of the most dangerous things we can do to our environment, in particular because it taints our drinking water. Studies have shown traces of human drugs in the water supply of every metro water supply in the US. Beyond that, fish have been found to be genetically altered by human drugs in rivers and streams.

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“In the Mood” – How Glenn Miller, Johnny Mercer and the Andrews Sisters Helped Dad Weather His Pain

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(Posted October 2012)

I’ve just returned from Florida, having spent almost two weeks with my sisters, taking care of details since Dad died.  There were plenty of tears – of course.  But even more laughter – because despite our mourning, we shared many marvelous family memories as we uncovered this treasure (good grief – our grade school report cards!) or that one (did we really wear our hair like that in the 80s?)

And of course, there were the conversations with the more than 100 people who attended Dad’s memorial service. (Quite surprising really – they were mostly in their 80s and 90s.) It was a memorial service like few others –  exactly what he requested – a celebration – a party! …including an open bar and hors d’oeuvres afterwards.  The readings and passages were part-mournful, but more than that, they were an homage to a man loved and respected by many.  My sisters and I were so very proud of the man who was our father.

Included in the celebration service was music, of course.  But not what you might expect.  Instead we put on a Glenn Miller CD, and a mix of other music from the 1940s. In the Mood, Candy, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy —   Dad would have loved it.  I know his friends did.

The music – it was an important part of Dad’s life – and his death.  In fact, through his final few days, I asked his hospice nurse to turn on the TV cable channel that plays1940s music – because it brought him so much pleasure to listen to the songs he shared with Mom as they were dating, fell in love and married.  It seemed to work well, taking his mind off his pain, as he finally relaxed, slept, and then passed. Continue Reading →

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