Protecting Your Family Members In Hospitals When Visitors Aren’t Allowed
In September, one of our partners, Mike Ermert, was interviewed by al.com. The article that resulted from that interview highlights the real and tragic events that many families have had to endure these past few months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When a loved one shows COVID-19 symptoms, it’s natural that their family will want to take them to a hospital. Unfortunately, the person may be so sick that they’re unable to communicate with the nurses and doctors on their own, yet their family members cannot come into the hospital due to the virus restrictions. This can result in minimal communication from the doctors as family members anxiously wait for news of their loved one’s condition. Then, weeks later, the family may receive a distressing call informing them that their loved one’s condition has deteriorated drastically or that they have passed away.
This inadequate communication has caused a lot of anguish for families. One day, they walk their sick grandfather into the hospital, and two weeks later, they receive a call from a doctor who says their grandfather is now critically ill. At most, the family may be allowed to call their grandfather to say their last goodbyes before he passes away.
It is our hope to prevent these grievous situations to keep from happening to any more families across Alabama. Families can take important steps to reduce uncertainty, increase awareness, and stay as up to date as possible with their sick loved ones while they’re in hospital care.
Before you check a sick loved one into a hospital, you should first review its visitation policy. Each hospital has a different policy, and it’s important to find the one that matches your needs and preferences. Some hospitals only permit visitors when someone is about to pass or during childbirth, while others don’t permit visitors at all. Keep in mind that many of the restrictions that are in place now due to COVID-19 may remain even after the pandemic is over.
Power of Attorney
One of the best ways to ensure you can communicate with your loved one and medical staff is through a power of attorney. You should ensure your loved one has designated a power of attorney before a medical emergency arises. That way, if one should happen, a family member or a trusted family friend can make sound medical decisions for their loved one if they are too ill to speak or they fall unconscious. Additionally, having a power of attorney allows you to legally talk to doctors and nurses about your loved one’s medical details.
Once your loved one is in a hospital, it’s up the family members to gather as much information as possible. Ask which floor they’re on and which room they’ll be staying in. Learn which nurse is on duty on that floor, who is in charge, and which physician will care for them. This can be a good time to get in touch with a patient advocate or social worker. They can help families get the information they need, including if their loved one has been moved to a different unit.
Just as families should collect as much information as they can, they should also be sure to inform the hospital staff of any medical conditions their loved one may have. This may include trouble eating certain foods; cognitive, vision, or hearing issues; or special needs related to Alzheimer’s or dementia that the doctors and nurses need to be aware of.
Being in the hospital with an illness is scary, and not being able to talk to family makes it far worse.
By following the steps above, you’ll do everything in your power to ensure your loved one is not alone. If you need help getting a power of attorney or have any questions regarding the steps above, call our office. The Birmingham personal injury lawyers at Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton can help you find the answers you need or help you get in contact with an attorney who can.