As a patient advocate, I received a call from a woman who was angry that she was not permitted to see her husband in the hospital. She said her husband was too tired to speak up and she knows other people were able to visit loved ones. She couldn’t believe that at this hospital no one would talk to her about visiting her husband and being at his side when he needed her the most, following a major surgical procedure.
I can begin to advocate for her but I hesitate because I need to consider the possibility that her husband may not want her there. There is no way of knowing if that’s the case. I have seen this happen, when the patient pulls me aside and asks me to “get rid of” a family member that they don’t want there, or family members who talk too much, are too loud or too pushy.
Patients know that they need rest but may have mixed feelings because they also want someone who cares about them available at their side. It is important to have conversations about what a patient wants and what an advocate is willing to do before a hospitalization, but there needs to be room for changing the plans. I remember when I had surgery, I thought I wanted family with me all night, but then decided I didn’t. I wasn’t going to argue; they needed to trust that I changed my mind. Patients should feel comfortable telling a loved one who wants to help, what they need. And the family needs to trust that they may not be the best people for the patient at that moment.
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