Advocating for Your Hospitalized Loved One During COVID-19
Sitting bedside and visiting with a loved one while they are hospitalized or in a skilled nursing facility (SNF) has been suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many patients are having to navigate the healthcare continuum without the comfort of a loved one or family member physically with them. This lack of real-time patient support, comfort, and advocacy is raising concern and may be resulting in negative health outcomes.
Here are two important ways you can remain in touch and stay informed of your loved one’s plan of care during COVID-19:
Phone calls are vital – Make sure to call at least daily and more than once a day, based on your loved one’s health condition and situation. If your loved one is unable to communicate (e.g. because of a stroke, coma, respirator), ask for the case manager or social worker assigned to their case.
Video chats when and where possible – FaceTime on iPhones, Google Chat, Skype, Zoom video chats, and even Marco Polo (which allows you to send and receive video clips) allows you to see and hear your loved one. If the patient does not have the technology necessary or the ability to work the technology, ask the social worker/case manager if they can provide it and assist your loved one.
Here is information you will want to gather if your loved goes into the hospital or SNF:
Who is the attending physician?
What room number and/or bed is your loved one currently in?
What is the direct phone number for your loved one’s room (or bed, if more than one patient to a room)?
Who is the case manager, social worker, or discharge/transition planner assigned to your loved one’s case? If this person changes daily (which happens in some healthcare systems), ask for the main phone number for the Social Work/Case Management department so you can speak directly to a person when calling.
Appoint one person to be the “point person” for the hospital or SNF to contact. Multiple calls to the healthcare facility by numerous family members or friends will only confuse the situation and potentially create a “he said/she said” environment.
To help keep track of information, create a binder where you can document the important things like diagnoses, dates, times, procedures, and conversations. In the binder, make notes, create reminders, and keep track of any additional and pertinent information regarding your loved one’s care. Keep this in hand when speaking to anyone at the hospital or SNF. Request a daily call from someone – either the attending physician or social worker/ case manager – to provide your “point person” a regular update. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
Your hospitalized loved ones do not have to be alone during this time of no-visitation policies. A phone call does wonders to shift the mood; a video chat can lift both the sender and receiver’s spirits, allowing you to see how your loved one is faring while away from you. With a few additional logistics and a comprehensive plan to stay in touch and informed, your loved one will hopefully be discharged in no time!
About the Author
Kie Copenhaver, MA, RHIA, CSA, RCFE
Kie Copenhaver is a Certified Senior Advisor with CarePatrol in San Diego County and has over 20 years of experience in the healthcare field. She currently holds a master’s degree in Sociology/Gerontology, is a Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA), and has her Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (RCFE) Administrator license. Kie can be reached at (619)378-6897 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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