How to help protect a loved one in the hospital when you can’t be there

It can be a hectic time to go to the hospital during a pandemic, so as your station for health, we want to make sure you have all the tools you need, in case you or a loved one has to be hospitalized.

The state of Texas passed an "Emergency Action" in October of 2020, which allows each hospital to set their own visitation policy. Memorial Hermann just started allowing an adult visitor this week, but many still don't allow visitors during the pandemic to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. That’s why it’s so important to have a plan in place, in case you, or someone you love has to be hospitalized.

Bonnie Sheeren is a board-certified patient's advocate and encourages you to first delegate one person to be in charge of communication for your family with the hospital.

"You're just going to drive them (hospital staff) crazy if they have ten different people calling, plus you start getting, like the game of telephone, somebody tells somebody, and someone calls somebody, no, you need one person. Now, everybody else can listen in and not talk, but listen in, and also that person can ask if it can be recorded. I've had that happen with clients, where they recorded it, so that can work as well," states Bonnie.

She also suggests you call the hospital twice each day, at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. to avoid the changing shifts of nursing staff.

"The nurses’ shifts change usually at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., so you're going to get two sets of nursing staff. Now, one thing you don't want to do is call them as they're leaving or walking out the door, because who wants to get into a large discussion, as they're getting ready to go home? So you want to call them about two hours before their shift ends. And you want to make sure you're talking to the right person, because if you just start hammering somebody with questions and they're not the appropriate staff member to communicate with you, then you're not getting anything done," explains Bonnie.

Houston-area grandmother spares eyesight by knowing symptoms of common disease

A Houston-area grandmother wants you to know the signs and symptoms of age-related macular degeneration. She was able to save her eyesight by being educated about it.

Here’s another idea: make sure you know how to gain access to your loved one's patient portal.

"Healthcare is going online. And basically, a lot of it is shifting over to online. Now, that being said, some hospitals are much better about posting the charts and charting the results. You can pull up lab results, you can pull off so much information, you don't have to go through every little detail with the nurses. You can just ask basic questions like, ‘Did my loved one eat today, did they smile did they, just basic observational questions," encourages Bonne.

Bonnie believes good communication between family members and doctors can lower problems at the hospital. It has been a problem during the pandemic. Medical malpractice suits have gone up across the country the past six months.

Victor Bornstein used to work in the Texas Medical Center and recently started the tech company, Justpoint, to use artificial intelligence to help connect alleged victims of malpractice with a lawyer.

"That has been happening more, especially as hospitals are overcrowded, up more than 2% in Texas and 6% across the country," he informs us.

Houston-area man out of the hospital after battling COVID-19 for 8 months

Michael Shammai, 62, said he started running a fever and coughing back in June. His wife took him to the hospital and he has been to several hospitals over the past eight months.

Like Bonnie, Victor believes in prevention, so he shares this advice. One mistake he's seeing with his clients, errors with medication, so he suggests you make sure to send a list of prescription drugs with your loved one, if they have to go to the hospital.

"The patient may not remember exactly which drugs they're are taking, but the family member does and right now with COVID, a lot of family members that aren't allowed to come to the hospital with the loved ones, which makes them even more difficult for everyone involved to know which medications each person is taking.  On top of that, something might happen like a wrong medication that has drug interaction with the drug the patient's taking," says Victor. 

Victor says he's also seeing more complaints from clients with loved ones in nursing homes, so many of the same suggestions apply about constant communication between family and caretakers.  

Bornstein says his research shows only 3% of doctors make mistakes, so his company is coming out with a list of best doctors, so that patients can find the right doctor for their situation.