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How Can I Keep Parent Safe From Medical Errors?

It is always a scary time when a parent has to be hospitalized. According to the Aging Parents Authority, medical errors are the 8th leading cause of death in the country. Often, these errors are preventable. If you are a good advocate for your parent, you may be able to protect your parent from errors that could cause her condition to worsen – or even cause her to pass away. The Aging Parents Authority recommends these 8 tips for keeping your parent safe from medical errors.

1. Be an advocate for your parent.

If your parent is in a hospital or nursing home, the responsibility often falls to you to represent your parent’s best interests. This includes being in constant communication with doctors and nurses and being aware of your parent’s condition at all times. If you are unable to stay with your parent, you may be able to hire a private nurse to stay with her during the most crucial hours.

2. Meet with your parent’s doctor and staff.

It is important to be familiar with the doctors and nurses who will be taking care of your parent. Make sure that you know which doctor is responsible for her care during each shift so that you know who to contact should a problem arise. Never assume that important information has been shared – review your parent’s condition with everyone involved in her care.

3. Learn about every test and procedure to be done.

When you learn about specific tests and procedures that your parent will undergo, it is important to ask why the tests have been ordered and when the results will be received. Be sure to ask about side effects or risks associated with any procedures your parent will experience, and make sure you know when the procedures will be done. Unless there is an emergency, do not allow anyone to come into the room unannounced and begin a procedure before you have verified it with the doctor. This will prevent mistakes and patient mix-ups.

4. Have a list of all of your parent’s medications.

It is important to compile a list of all of the medications your parent is taking and to update this list frequently. If your parent has to be hospitalized unexpectedly, having this list available will lower the possibility that your parent will be given medication that interferes with what she is already taking. Drug interactions can have serious and often deadly side effects.

5. Research your parent’s condition.

Take advantage of any opportunity you have to speak with the doctor or conduct your own research on your parent’s condition. This will allow you to be able to ask the appropriate questions regarding your parent’s treatment and recovery.

6. Be cooperative with the staff but don’t be afraid to speak up or ask questions.

While it may seem rude, it is important to ask the staff if they have washed their hands before treating your parent. Infections are often spread throughout hospitals because the health care workers have failed to wash their hands. If you ask, staff will be more likely to comply.

7. Meet with the surgeon and anesthesiologist before any surgery.

It is important to verify each procedure that will be done. Find out who will be monitoring your parent during the surgery and make sure he has all of the information he needs about your parent’s condition, such as allergic reactions to medications.

8. Watch for warning signs that your parent’s condition may be changing.

If your parent’s behavior changes suddenly, even in a way that is unnoticeable to the staff, be sure to bring it to the doctor’s attention. You know your parent better than the staff, and alerting them to a sudden change in behavior could save your parent’s life.

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