In the past couple of weeks, I have noticed several different articles on how to survive a stay in hospital for whatever reason. They all had good suggestions and advice, and so I thought I would try and put them together into a bullet point format so that you have an easy-to-access reference should you or close friend or family member have to go to hospital either for an unavoidable emergency or for a necessary procedure.
It is now well known that hospitals have changed from being a safe haven for healing to a dangerous place where you can easily pick up a stubborn germ or even a super drug resistant bug
. There is also the chance of being given the wrong medication or, at the very least, the wrong dosage because of overtired medical staff working long shifts.
Why the risks?
There is a very real danger that you could end up (after a few days' stay in hospital) worse off than when you entered.
Unfortunately, hospital complications and errors are now the 8th leading cause of death in the USA. And yet many such deaths could have been prevented. Hospital-acquired infections account for some 100,000 deaths annually with more than 2 million American citizens being affected by such infections every year.
What you need to know
- Your diet is vitally important both before and during your time in hospital. You need a healthy, natural, nutritious diet to boost your immune system before going into hospital and you also require a nourishing, non processed, diet whilst you are there. Poor hospital food can leave you severely malnourished. Asking for a vegetarian diet will often produce healthier food. If you are not being given fresh, whole, unprocessed food, you should look at making other arrangements such as a friend or relative bringing you a freshly made green smoothie full of really good stuff (fresh veggies and fruit, some ginger, a couple of raw free range eggs, some yogurt, raw honey and more) every day. You should be eating at least 5 servings of different fresh veggies daily. Drink plenty of pure, filtered water while being aware that hospital water could well be full of fluoride, chemicals and more. Avoid any food that is likely to be GM – corn, soybean, sunflower, canola.
- Supplements are a good idea to take before and during your stay. Include 500 mg of magnesium citrate twice a day unless you have kidney disease or a heart blockage. Take a multivitamin with minerals. If you are having surgery, you might want to select one that includes iron and vitamin K. Each day, take 200 IU of vitamin E via mixed tocopherols (natural form and not in a gelatin capsule). Take 1,000 mg of vitamin C (buffered calcium or magnesium ascorbate) three times a day. If you are over 50 or have a history of heart disease, take 300 mg of CoQ10 in extra-virgin olive or rice oil each day. This will strengthen your heart and boost immunity. Vitamin C is particularly important as it leads to less pain, quicker healing time and less bleeding. In some people vitamin C will act as an anticoagulant so if this is likely in your case, stop the vitamin C for the 48 hours immediately prior to any surgery and resume afterwards. If any medical staff try to stop you from having supplements, ask for a detailed reason and explanation. Knowing your rights and responsibilities can help ensure your hospital stay is a safe and healing one.
- It is in your interests to always have a personal advocate with you when you’re in a hospital as he or she can look after your best interests if you are too weak or unwell to do so and also for back up and support. Lives have been saved when there has been someone checking that mistakes are not made or as a witness if such mistakes are made. Ideally, your advocate should be your spouse or close relative. If this is not possible, make an arrangement with a friend in a similar situation that you will advocate for each other if the need ever arises. Your advocate will be kept busy reading the information and checking any to-be administered medication before it is given; ensuring the medication being administered is for you; making sure new-shift nurses inform you of any procedure or medication change; personally reading any doctor's order change; and getting a copy of any paperwork that will be admitted to the person's records. It can happen that hospitals will change the records if they have made errors in order to hide an event. Nurses generally work 12-hour shifts and shift changes can be when mistakes get made in the hospital. The new-shift nurse should read the previous nurse's notes, but don't rely on that.
According to Dr Andrew Saul - in his book Hospitals and Health
which is available through online booksellers – he says: “People need to understand that when they are faced with hospitalization, the most powerful person in the entire hospital system is the patient. The system works on the assumption that the patient will not claim that power. A patient can say, "No. Do not touch me." And they can't. If they do, it's assault, and you can call the police. Now, they might say, "Well, on your way in, you signed this form." You can unsign it. You can revoke your permission. There's no such thing as a situation that you cannot reverse. If you can make amendments to the U.S. Constitution, you can change your mind about your own personal healthcare. It concerns your very life. You don't want to cry wolf for no reason, but the patient has the potential to put a stop to anything; absolutely anything. When you go to the hospital, bring along a black Sharpie pen, and cross out anything that you don't like in the contract. Put big giant Xs through entire clauses and pages, and do not sign it. And when they say, "We're not going to admit you," you say, "Please put it in writing that you refuse to admit me." What do you think your lawyers are going to do with that? They have to [admit you]. They absolutely have to...It's a game, and you can win it. But you can't win it if you don't know the rules. And basically, they don't tell you the rules. In Hospitals and Health, we do.
More helpful advice
Once you are safely home and on the mend, keep up with the healthy eating, drinking plenty of water, taking exercise and boosting with supplements for the rest of your healthy life.
- Dr Saul also suggests that you ask to be addressed by your correct title and not your first name as it can change your care.
- Always be nice and polite to medical staff – it does not help to get on the wrong side of them and particularly nurses often get the brunt of any abuse from patients. A smile, a please and a thank you will go a long way.
- When you are in hospital, declare war on germs by washing your hands every chance you get (that is a good wash for at least 15 seconds). Don't be shy about reminding others to clean up, too. Your life is at stake after all. Although there are sanitizing gel dispensers all over hospital, keep your own supply next to your bed in case someone comes into your room and neglects to wash their hands. We don't normally recommend hand sanitizers but this is one place where they can be useful.
- Make sure you are examined with a clean stethoscope (either swabbed off or clad in a tiny "bonnet") while male medical staff wearing ties are particularly likely to be carrying germs.
- Leave all jewelry at home because it is literally a germ trap. If there is a remote in your room, clean it with disinfectant wipes – it is likely to be one of the most germ ridden objects in the hospital. Discourage unnecessary visitors because even though it sounds paranoid, they can each bring in their own set of bacteria.
- Be aware that shaving can cause nicks in the skin and these provide an entry point for germs. So avoid shaving while in hospital. If hair has to go, let a hospital staffer do it with electric clippers.
- Don't let visitors touch your bandage, wound or IV.
- If you are a smoker, then please quit before a hospital stay as a further boost to your immune system. Being a smoker automatically raises your risk of infection.
- Start some form of exercise (especially walking) as long as possible before any surgery as it speeds recovery and helps prevent any risk of deep vein clots after surgery. And start walking again as soon as possible after any surgery. Strolling the ward could cut your hospital visit by as much as two days. Once you have been given the go ahead by your doctor, set out on a short walk and continue adding a little further each day for a great early-exit strategy. Walking keeps your muscles strong and your joints limbered. You will leave hospital sooner even after serious surgery. Make sure you have comfortable safe clothing and footwear from your hospital walking. If necessary have someone walk with you. Doing laps around the hospital area improves circulation, helps medications get to where they need to go and gives you a mental boost.