Why hospitals should have an Elderly Patients Champion.
Having a discussion, the other day I was struck by how the relatives of elderly patients are being treated especially during this Covid period, and it is one that is causing so much upset and problems. One of the things pointed out to me was that 2 of the people involved had parents who were currently in hospital, and who had dementia and who feel that they are not hearing about them at all.
This was worrying enough for them, but they have to just place a bag at the door of the ward and leave. Now, one of them has had her mother in for 2 weeks and who has not been out of bed and where she has so much trouble contacting the ward that it is starting to affect her through lack of sleep and stress. She is worried and cannot get an answer out of anyone. No one is answering the phone as the staff are probably rushed off their feet as there are no relatives there to help.
It seems that the Doctor is telling the patient what is wrong with her and sadly because of her dementia she cannot pass that information onto her relatives.
I asked would it make it easier if she had some form of communication with the ward in the way of an email to explain what it is happening to her parent, and how she is. She explained that it would relieve the stress as she has not seen her nor spoken to her properly for 2 weeks and she has no idea of when she will. She is worrying that she is not out of bed, why she has not gotten out of bed and there were so many questions going unanswered.
I then thought that maybe it is about time hospitals thought of an Elderly Patients Champion.
Relatives could be given a flyer with a picture of the Elderly Patients Champion (EPC) their email, and a phone number where they can be contacted during the day, and one where instead of bothering the ward or the staff, the EPC could contact the ward staff themselves to ask how that particular patient is doing and then relay it back to the family.
This would save any potential upsets as patients families do get upset and they do tend to shoot from the hip as they say because they feel neglected, ignored, and treated badly and if a hospital can do something about that then surely that would save the headache of having relatives making complaints.
I know some hospitals have ward clerks now and surely they would be the person the EPC could go to and ask for information, and from there through a password protected email send an update or ask the ward clerk to do it. I was a medical secretary years ago and having taken over a temporary post I answered phone calls from disgruntled relatives over 37 hours the first week as no one had kept them uptodate, and as you can imagine this was not a good use of my working time, and it was weeks before it began to get anything like normal.
This could have all be avoided by keeping in communication with the relatives.
When I progressed further and became the Manager of a Mental Health Practice I created a patient passport for those who have mental incapacity and it was a pictogram booklet that the patient, and then patients relatives filled in and this gave us in the hospital a good record of what made them sad, happy etc and it made life a lot easier for them and for us.
I also designed a ward round online form to fill in where the physio, the team leaders, the psychologist and finally the Staff Grade Doctor completed all their parts before the Senior Consultant arrived, and this was always available, and there was an area that the Doctors filled in where I could bear in mind the confidentiality of the patient inform their relatives how they were.
This was having a fully verified email, a password for the email and a password from them to tell me on the phone. Having this along with DOB of the patient I knew that I could inform them from the Doctor’s writing of how their relative was. It reduced my phone time down from 3 or 4 hours a day to maybe that a week as they had constant updates, and this gave all the medical experts and the admin staff more time to dedicate to the patients, as lets face it they are the most important people and if their relatives are getting worked up, this will be felt by the patients and we are there to get them better, and for them to have a good experience through the care system. Even if they can’t remember the relatives will and there is nothing worse than bad PR as it grows with each story telling.
I am currently updating the passport for patients as I feel that it is something worth having, and it gives the patient and their relatives greater control as they bring this passport into hospital with them (having been given it by the Consultant at an earlier meeting, or at the care home where it is filled in), and rather than having to guess the medical care team will have the information to hand and this will save the stressing out, or trial and error of the patient information.
This can all be done via the EPC as they can go to the local care homes and explain what it is for, and who should fill it in and ensure that the staff pack this self-help passport when that person is taken to hospital. The staff and the relatives would have met the EPC in their own setting and feel more at ease talking to them, as let’s face it we don’t know who we have on the phone and when you are trying for some 6 hours and still not gotten through it can raise your blood pressure, as we are all human and we all think of the worst happening without really knowing.
Having an EPC in a hospital and in the community as the first point of contact and their sole responsibility will be dealing with the relatives. Think of how much time that will release from the medical staff!
Something worth thinking about!!!