When In-Person Support Isn't an Option


When In-Person Support Isn't an Option


Having a loved one in the hospital is hard enough, but being told you cannot visit them is a reality that countless families have endured through the COVID-19 pandemic. In any situation where hospitals and other healthcare facilities have stopped or restricted visits, it's important to remember that there are valuable ways to advocate for someone even when you can't physically be with them.

Below are three tips for advocating for a hospitalized patient during a pandemic — or any other time when in-person support cannot be provided. My insights won't change the fact that you may not be able to see your loved one, but — hopefully — you'll have ideas on how to proactively advocate for them during a hospital stay.

1. Request regular check-in calls with key medical personnel.

Realistically, getting a hold of someone at a hospital may not be an easy task these days. Just imagine the influx of patients they are facing. That is why it is critical to be persistent! Aim to get in touch with these key players:

  • Head nurse: Runs the hospital unit/floor where your loved one is staying.
  • Hospital case manager: This person is different than the Head nurse. They coordinate the patient's total care while in the hospital including physical therapists, dietitians, physicians, etc. 
  • Palliative care team: They can manage the patient's pain medications and are trained to deal with the psychological ramifications of having a serious illness and being isolated. 
  • Hospitalist: This is the doctor who takes care of patients in the hospital. There are several who will monitor your loved one's care during their stay. Find out their names, and try to meet with each of them. 

2. Elect one person to handle all key phone conversations.

  • Putting a single person in charge of care communication can help you and your family move forward rather than continually having repeat conversations with medical personnel.
  • Choose someone who can be calm but assertive to be the voice of the patient.
  • This individual should come prepared with a list of key questions. This will help to keep the conversation focused on what's most important. As a family, brainstorm on what you need and want to know to better support your loved one. 
  • Last, an advocate should always keep notes or ask to record the conversation so important points aren‘t forgotten. 

3. Request video calls.

  • Ask the medical staff if they are willing to do video calls — they may not due to HIPAA laws, but it is worth asking. Seeing someone's face is always more telling and personable. 
  • If they don't have their own teleconferencing system in place, sign up for a FREE account (ie. Zoom, Skype, Facetime). This means you will need to send them a call invite. 
  • Log onto the call 30 minutes before your scheduled meeting time. Even if you are comfortable with video calls, technical issues happen. Logging on early will allow you to troubleshoot and not waste time. You can always go grab a coffee or snack while waiting for the medical professional to join.

Remember being a Badass Advocate doesn't mean you always feel like one. It's the effort that counts! Aim to do your best. We got this!

Here is some additional guidance on being an advocate in healthcare settings:

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Bonnie Friedman

Great advice. Family members are part of the care team and must be respected for their role and contributions, even when they can't be there in person.