Stand Up For Yourself (Even If You’re Lying Down)

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Nurses must draw straws to see who gives me my medicines when I am in the hospital. I’m sure everybody gets tired of all my questions. I’ve heard sighs when I insist that soap and water — not hand sanitizer — is used (it triggers my asthma). But that’s OK: I’m only looking out for myself.

In my ideal world, I would take my medicines to the hospital with me — in their original containers, of course — and just do it myself. That’s not going to happen, but I wouldn’t even mind giving them over for the pharmacy to check that they are what the container says they are and having a nurse dispense them. Sometimes that does happen, but not always.

But the last time, I had to take the hospital’s medicines. It did not go well.

“What’s that?” I would ask the nurse as she handed over each pill. I cannot begin to tell you how many of what the hospital was trying to foist off on me were not the same as the medicines I take.

“That’s not on our formulary,” I was told, over and over. I’m not talking generic versus brand name here — I take generic when it’s available — I’m talking totally different medicines. Well, my doctors and I have spent some time adjusting medicines and dosages to find what works for me and that’s what I’m going to take. I was especially annoyed that they sent up a substitute for my antidepressants.

So I refused to take the substitutes. (Hmmmm… I’m debating whether to tell you I didn’t miss anything because I had my own meds hidden in the bottom of my bag.)

“Pay attention to the care you are receiving… Don’t assume anything,” advises The Joint Commission (formerly The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations).

This paying attention stuff also could save you a few bucks. For example, I do take my own insulin, by order of my primary care doctor. One hospital tried to charge me for insulin. However, I not only knew I hadn’t seen a bottle of insulin from the hospital, I knew that the insulin I took was unavailable at that facility; it wasn’t on the formulary.

What types of things involve paying attention? Identification would be a biggie. Employees have badges: You have a bracelet.

The Joint Commission gives an example of a new mother making sure she hands her baby over to somebody she knows. It says to check credentials of the person. I say if you’ve never seen the person (and, with shift changes, you may not have), ring for somebody to come to your room and verify that it’s somebody who’s supposed to be there. I mean, especially if a baby is involved. I can assure you that nobody would want to steal ME.

As the old saying goes, “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.”

Also make sure the person delivering medicines or performing a procedure knows who YOU are. It gives you a better chance of getting the right meds or having the correct procedure performed. Here’s where that bracelet comes in handy. You may also be asked for your birth date.

Have you seen your caregiver wash his hands? Hands must be washed (or hand sanitizer used except when it triggers your asthma or something) to lower the risk of spreading germs, infections, and such. Don’t be afraid to ask when hands were washed. Don’t be afraid to refuse to be touched until the person has employed some good ol’ soap and water. Oh, yes — and be polite. I tend not to want to snarl at people who have access to sharp objects. Or who can give orders to have things done to you that you’re not going to like at all.

Whatever you do, don’t just placidly kick back and let people do what they will. Make sure you know exactly what’s going on. If you don’t understand, keep asking until you’re given an answer you can understand. Ask “what are you doing?” “why are you doing it?” “how will this help my condition?” and stuff like that.

Grab all the information you can and make sure the care you are getting is the right care. After all, humans make mistakes. Even human health-care providers.

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