Advocating for a family member in the hospital

September 28, 2017

Unrecognizable business person analyzing graphs and taking notes

It’s incredibly stressful to have someone you love in the hospital. Not only are you worried about their health, it almost seems like hospitals were designed to be as stressful as possible! Constant interruptions, florescent lights, beeping and blinking machinery, and incredible levels of crowding guarantee we’re all on edge.

Sometimes, especially with teams of medical staff coming and going at random, I wonder if my son is getting the best care. Are these staff members familiar with his medical history? Do they have all the information they need? Are they ordering tests he doesn’t need and skipping over ones that might be more appropriate? Medical staff are rushed and exhausted…and only human.

After more than a decade of being in-and-out of hospitals with my son, I feel confident in my ability to advocate for him to get the best care possible.

I always keep a notebook with me. I take notes when I’m talking to the doctors, including their names and titles, so I can keep track of things. I ask questions of the doctors at the time, but I also have the details I’ll need to look things up on my own later and ask follow-up questions.

I ask staff members if it’s okay to contact them with questions and how they prefer to be contacted. If someone is okay with me emailing them questions I make sure not to abuse the privilege and be respectful of their time.

I stay calm. Yes, it’s an emergency for me and my son is my top priority. But I recognize that’s true of just about everyone in the hospital. Hospital staff need to balance the needs of all of their patients, so I’m firm in asking for the care he needs, but also remember that things can’t always happen on the timeline I’d like.

I’m persistent. It’s tough to find the right balance of making sure things aren’t forgotten without becoming that mom.

I’m open to suggestions. My son and I know his health best, but we’re in the hospital for a reason — these people are experts, too. It can be difficult, but I try to make sure we’re working with his medical team and not just trying to convince them to take the course of treatment we think is best.

I appreciate the staff. Hospital staff are people. They have good days and bad days, too. I try to remember this, thank them for their help, and cut them slack when they drop the ball. Treat others like you’d like to be treated.

Susie Miller

Written by Guest Author
The Caregiver Space accepts contributions from experts for The Caregiver's Toolbox and provides a platform for all caregivers in Caregiver Stories. Please read our author guidelines for more information and use our contact form to submit guest articles.

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  1. Each time our Mum went into hospital I would go to the Head Nurse and beg her to let me stay..I always was allowed because I spoke the truth about why I had to be there…They all knew the sort of ‘care’ Mum would ‘get’..I saw it myself firsthand…so much for our patient to staff ratios….not fed,very little empathy when needing to go to the toilet,( Mum had bowel problems and we told them she needed to get up many times to go) slipping down her bed and not being propped up.I know it may all sound like a typical disgruntled relative but it broke my heart to see this and at their age….where is patience,empathy and alittle compassion? As I said before it broke my heart but more so it broke their spirits…You finally found your peace Mum.❤️

  2. They should be really proud of them sells all of them the doctors and nurses the poor people to clean the place probably work harder than they do

  3. Just came from the hospital to see my friend it’s horrible it’s horrible it’s going to get worse so we better figure this one out

  4. If you have a family member in the hospital you better stay there 24 seven because they have no help and you have to take him to the bathroom you have to wash him you have to change your freaking betting this is bullshit

  5. I’ve been the advocate for my parents, husband and younger brother. I just wonder who will be an advocate for me when the time comes.

    • I’m afraid of the same….I am single with no children…who will speak for me if I can’t?

  6. It’s really hard when it’s a dementia patient. I was in the ER and hospital so many times during my caretaking days for my mom. There are absolute saint caretakers in hospitals, and / also terrifying apathetic careworkers. God bless and God help the people who don’t have anyone to advocate for them if there isn’t a saint around…

  7. Every time my husband was moved to a different unit his meds were screwed up, despite being all computerized. Twice they did not change his pain patch and he went into withdrawal. Yes, plenty do care but just a few who don’t make it horrible.

  8. As a caregiver for my husband, and someone who works in a hospital, I can say many of us do care.

    • MANY of you do care. But you probably know the frustration of where this is coming from also… ❤️

    • The article didn’t bother me. The other comment did. Discounting those who do put in full effort.

  9. Yes they make an already stressful situation worse and they do not care…!!!!!!!


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