Hospitals Can Be Dangerous – Tips to Protect Your Loved Ones From Infections and Accidents.
Thanks to a wealth of great medical websites, we’ve never had access to more knowledge about health conditions and treatment choices. However, the average caretaker or advocate knows much less about potentially-harmful complications known as “Hospital Acquired Conditions,” or “HACs” that can be dangerous — even deadly.
National Patient Safety Awareness Week is March 3-9 and shines a light on the most common HACs and how to prevent them. Most hospitals set this week aside for special training for their doctors and nurses. They also reach out to their local communities with educational events that cover hospital safety tips like the ones in this article.
Three of the most common HACs are staph, MRSA (Methicillin-Resisten Staphylococcus aureus) and C. diff (Clostridium dificile) — hospital-acquired bacterial infections that can each cause complications including moderate-to-severe illness or death. But there are many more.
Infections, falls, meds and more
Patient Safety Awareness Week helps hospitals spread the message that the number one way to prevent infections is quite simple: Always wash your hands with good old-fashioned warm, soapy water before you ever touch anyone in your care.
Another common danger is falls — most often associated with the frail and elderly, but also common among hospital patients of all ages. Every patient is in an unfamiliar environment, and often weak from illness or woozy from medication making them susceptible to falling.
Again, preventing falls is really simple: Make sure every patient walks with a three-pronged cane or holds a willing arm to prevent dangerous spills.
Then there are medication mix-ups, which occur fairly often in the bustle of hospital care. So it’s a good idea to ask nurses to double-check medications before administering them.
Other common hospital conditions include pneumonia, urinary tract infections, blood clots and bedsores. Bed rest causes many of these problems.
Now that you know more about HACs, what else can you to do protect your loved one while he or she is hospitalized?
- Try to choose a hospital rated highly on safety, with a low HAC rate. Talk to your doctor about them, or visit websites like HospitalSafetyScore.org, ConsumerReports.org, or HospitalCompare.hhs.gov.
- Always bring a friend or family member as your Care Partner. Patients forget about 80% of what their doctors and nurses tell them.
- Bring a notebook and checklists. Safe hospitals use checklists, and now patients have safety checklists too. Patient safety leaders endorse SafeAndSoundBooks.com and CampaignZERO.org. When you have your hospital checklists, you’ll know what to look for, what to do, and what to say to prevent hospital conditions – and everyone will appreciate your help!
Overall, remember that patient safety is a team effort – every single week of the year.
Do you have any tips for preventing medical mishaps?
We’d like to hear your experiences, and what steps you’ve take to ensure the health of your loved ones in a medical/hospital setting. Please share your thoughts here – you’ll be helping many caregivers and advocates do their jobs better – and maybe even save a life.
Karen Curtiss is a national leader in patient and family education for hospital care. She wrote her book “Safe & Sound in the Hospital: Must-Have Checklists and Tools for Your Loved One’s Care” after her own family members were harmed by common hazards in hospital care. Karen is now an advocate dedicated to teaching other families how to help safeguard their loved ones during hospital care. She is a frequent speaker at health care conferences where nurses and doctors are interested in learning how to collaborate with patients and families with her safe & sound checklists. Karen’s book, “Safe & Sound in the Hospital,” is available at SafeAndSoundBooks.com and on Amazon.