“When Dad was about to be released from the hospital, we asked his doctor to review Dad’s blood tests with us. The doctor assured us that the results were normal, but he kindly looked them up. To his surprise, two of the results were above normal! He apologized and called a specialist. Dad is doing well now. But we are very glad that we asked questions.”—Maribel.
Medical appointments and hospital stays can be nerve-racking. As Maribel’s experience shows, the assistance of a friend or a relative can be very helpful—possibly even life-saving. How can you help a loved one?
Before the visit. Help the patient write down his symptoms as well as any medications or supplements he takes. Also list any questions that should be asked of the physician. Help your friend recall any details of his condition or any family history of the illness. Do not assume that the doctor already knows those details or will ask for them.
During the visit. Be sure you and the patient understand what the doctor says. Ask questions, but avoid making assertions. Allow the patient to ask questions and to speak for himself. Pay attention, and take careful notes. Ask about treatment options. In some cases, it may be wise to suggest to the patient that he get a second opinion.
After the visit. Review the appointment with the patient. Make sure that he gets the right medication. Encourage him to take the medication as prescribed and to inform the doctor immediately of any adverse reaction. Urge the patient to keep a positive outlook, and encourage him to follow any additional instructions, such as that he get follow-up treatment. Help him to learn more about his condition.
In the Hospital
Be calm and alert. A patient going into the hospital may feel worried and helpless. By being calm and attentive, you can help everyone to relax and also to avoid making mistakes. Make sure that admittance forms are filled out correctly. Respect the patient’s right to make informed medical decisions. If he is too ill to do so, honor his previously written wishes and the authority of his next of kin or health-care agent.*
Take initiative. Do not be afraid to speak up. Your respectable appearance and good manners can move the medical team to take greater interest in the patient and can even move them to improve the quality of his care. In many hospitals, patients are seen by various doctors. You can help them by communicating what others on the staff have said. You know the patient, so point out any changes you notice in his physical or mental state.
Show respect and gratitude. Hospital staff often work under stressful conditions. Treat them as you would want to be treated. (Matthew 7:12) Show respect for their training and experience, confidence in their ability, and gratitude for their efforts. Such appreciation can encourage them to do their best.
No one can avoid getting sick. But through forethought and practical assistance, you can help a friend or a relative make the best of a difficult situation.—Proverbs 17:17.
Laws and practices regarding a patient’s rights and duties vary from place to place. Make sure that the patient’s documents containing his medical wishes are complete and up-to-date.