Having to be admitted to hospital is not something we wish for, certainly not for elderly parents. A patient I saw was recently admitted to a hospital following a first episode of seizures (fits).
The elderly man had a history of dementia, hypertension, high cholesterol and heart disease. His children shared their experiences with me:
- My father came home in a worse condition than when he was admitted. Before, he was able to walk with some help but is largely bed-bound now. Worse, he now has a urine catheter in place.
- The hospital doctors had no idea what caused the seizures, despite doing tons of investigations. Then they started him on so many new medications with side effects.
- Different doctors at the hospital kept asking the same questions over and over again, and it seemed like they were experimenting with different drugs on my father.
- I do not wish for my father to go back to hospital ever again.
Actually, the above comments are quite commonly heard from patients and their families. As a healthcare professional, I fully understand why the hospital staff needed to do what they did. For example, the patients’ urinary problems were probably pre-existing but undetected until this admission; he required a long term urinary catheter, as he continued to retain large volumes of urine.
What the patients and families needed was to hear the explanations clearly – good patient communication. But I also know that his is not easy to do in a hospital where staff are clearly very busy and time is limited. This is where primary care physicians like myself can be of help. Perhaps taking some time to listen, and explain what went on in hospital.
This task of listening and explaining may seem simple, but it can have clinical impact down the road. If the patient and family understands the situation, it may temper their reluctance to be admitted again if a real need arises.