My ad­vice: Be pa­tient’s ad­vo­cate, friend and maker of health lists

The Tribune (SLO) - - Local - BY KATHE TAN­NER ktan­[email protected]­bune­news.com

We’ve shared a lot, my friend, in this col­umn space, in so­cial me­dia mes­sages, emails, phone calls and chat-and-hug en­coun­ters at the gro­cery store or on a street cor­ner ... or in a hos­pi­tal or skilled-nurs­ing re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­ter, as hap­pened often re­cently dur­ing Husband Richard’s nearly month­long stays.

Thank you so much for your kind words, en­cour­age­ment and hugs there. They re­ally helped! Dur­ing Husband Richard’s re­cov­ery from what was prob­a­bly a mild heart at­tack, I learned a lot about be­com­ing a help­ful ad­vo­cate for some­one be­ing treated in a med­i­cal fa­cil­ity. So, I’ll share — just in case.

My husband wears strong glasses and the strong­est hear­ing aids. In hos­pi­tal set­tings, he often had to re­move them. So, many times, I was his voice, his com­mu­ni­ca­tor. I was there 24/7 for the first two-and-ahalf weeks, overnight­ing in his room and/or a couch in the re­hab cen­ter’s main room. Com­fort­able? Not re­ally. Noisy? Yes. Those call bells go all night long.

Few peo­ple have the sched­ule flex­i­bil­ity to do that, and I’m so lucky that I did (thanks, boss!). Even so, my first hint is a sim­ple one: If you can, just be there, when­ever you can.

Be the pa­tient’s ad­vo­cate. Be his care­giver. Be her friend. Com­mu­ni­cate po­litely with the nurses and docs. Use hu­mor, but be firm. If you can’t be there, make sure some­one else can.

An­other hint: Un­der med­i­cal duress, our sav­ing grace is a health list. They can be cru­cial. I reg­u­larly up­date on my com­puter a med­i­cal­in­ci­dent chronol­ogy for each of us, us­ing bul­let points to high­light pre­vi­ous op­er­a­tions and se­ri­ous ill­nesses or in­ci­dents. The lists also in­clude daily medicines and al­ler­gies, names of our doc­tors, etc.

We keep copies of our health lists in the van, on my phone and in my purse. Just in case. I be­gan those lists soon af­ter Husband Richard’s first heart at­tack (in 1996, ac­cord­ing to his chronol­ogy). I knew that, un­der the stress of a sud­den med­i­cal emer­gency, I’d never re­mem­ber the all-im­por­tant ex­act names and dosages of each medicine he takes.

Let alone when doc­tors in­stalled his new knee (2002) or reat­tached his de­tached retina (1997). Some doc­tors and nurses have asked if I’d give lessons on cre­at­ing those lists. I think they were kid­ding. Maybe.

My other med­i­cal list is of things I’d take to a pa­tient who’ll be there longer than overnight, things that can make those in­ter­minable hours more com­fort­able. For in­stance:

• Sooth­ingly soft fa­cial tis­sues (coarse, crispy tis­sues can chafe sore noses).

• His fa­vorite pil­low and silky throw quilt (a touch of home)

• Saline nasal spray, lip balm and his fa­vorite hand­body lo­tion. (Hos­pi­tal set­tings can be desert-dry).

• A short robe, to cam­ou­flage those aw­ful hos­pi­tal gowns. Short be­cause you don’t want a wob­bly pa­tient to trip on or get tan­gled in a long robe.

• Comfy pa­ja­mas or sweats, once that hos­pi­tal gown is gone (yay!).

• Short-sleeved shirts (ditto, to make blood-pres­sure checks, blood draws and in­jec­tions less both­er­some).

• His “happy” apron, to pro­tect those shirts.

• Easy-on slip­pers or san­dals that won’t slide off.

• Cell­phone and ear­phones.

• Flash­light, maybe even a but­ton one to pin on a shirt or hos­pi­tal gown.

• Makeup to make a fe­male pa­tient feel pret­tier.

• Bat­ter­ies or recharg­ing unit for hear­ing aids.

• Books, mag­a­zines and/ or an e-reader or tablet.

• Charg­ing cords and recharg­ing unit for the elec­tron­ics.

• Den­tal ne­ces­si­ties (a screw-top jar is help­ful for den­tures!).

• Elec­tric ra­zor and charg­ing cord.

• If you’ll be stay­ing in the area overnight, bring your daily pre­scrip­tions, tooth­brush, hair­brush, change of clothes, e-reader and mag­a­zines to read and share.

• Con­tact list for fam­ily and friends.

• For longer stays? Al­low­able spices, herbs and sauces to add oomph to hos­pi­tal food. And per­haps even a light­weight fold­ing chair — most pa­tient rooms don’t have enough visi­tor seat­ing.

Our fi­nal take-along? Back­stop meals of Richard’s fa­vorite daily smoothie ... just in case. Easy to swal­low and di­gest, filled with vi­ta­mins, fiber and pro­tein and, ac­cord­ing to him, de­li­cious. To make it, high-speed blend a mix of berries, ba­nana, ap­ple, or­ange or tangerine, yo­gurt, rolled oats, ground flaxseed, chia seed and any fla­vor­ing you like (vanilla, gin­ger, cin­na­mon, al­mond …).

Once the blend is silky smooth, fin­ish fill­ing the con­tainer with vanilla Boost, Egg Beat­ers (they’re pas­teur­ized) and an ap­pro­pri­ate fruit juice. Then cap and carry.

I hope you never have to use this ad­vice. But I had to share. Just in case.

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