Senior Parent Hospitalization, #3: Four Ways to Reduce Stress for Patient Families

If you like this post, please read my Senior Parent Hospitalization posts: Report #1: This Hospital Gets ItReport #2: Peace and QuietReport #3: Four Ways to Reduce Stress for Patient FamiliesReport #4: Observations from My DadReport #5: The Emergency Room Worked Fast, and Report #6: Learning About Cardiac Procedures and Surgeries.

Still here at the hospital with my dad.

My husband has gone home, and now Mom, Dad, and I are sitting around dad’s hospital room at Rockingham Memorial Hospital (RMH) in Harrisonburg, VA. I have finally mastered working on my computer, uninterrupted for 30 minutes at a time (see below for more on hospital wireless). We are hoping for a discharge tomorrow.

Here are four things that I believe can be improved at any hospital, including here in this beautiful Shenandoah mountains setting.

    • Looking down from the second floor

       Wireless needs to be free and dependable for patients’ families  and not require people to pay or sign-in over and over. Here at RMH it’s necessary to sign in every 30 minutes. Until I got in the habit of saving every 15 minutes or so, I lost two or three important pieces of information. It is stressful enough to be dealing with my father in the hospital, let alone losing the important information for my work, which I was missing because my dad is here in the hospital. I am, however, grateful to have free wireless here, even though I wish each session lasted longer. At Virginia Hospital Center (VHC) near where I live, the last time I was there for some time and wanted to work on my computer, hospital patrons were asked to pay an outrageous $9.95 per day for wireless access. A couple of times since then, when I’ve needed a diagnostic test that involves waiting, I’ve asked my doctor if we can schedule at a nearby hospital that does have free wireless. Too bad, because I otherwise love my community hospital.  NOTE to RMH: To work on this post I’ve needed to sign-in six times — so far.

    •  Consider the importance of  senior-friendly wireless. Wireless is a BIG DEAL to people my age, and even more important for people in younger demographics. Interestingly though, seniors use of wireless is increasing faster than almost any other group. RMH supports program after wonderful program to support seniors, including a series of computer classes, and my parents attend many of these activities. But even after four days of Dad’s hospitalization, I cannot get my parents, who are computer literate, to understand completely the need to sign-in, and re-sign-in and re-sign-in again; the wireless is just senior-unfriendly, plain and simple. My dad has his iPad here, but he cannot listen to a complete symphony from a website, which he has tried to do, without at least one interruption. If you have to set wireless limits, do it by bandwidth, not time. This report, Older Adults and Social Media, by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, shares research about the habits and interests of seniors and technology.
    • Provide good coffee and tea and more access to healthy food in the evening, at least until the end of visiting hours. This seems to be a problem at every hospital — and especially on weekends when the wonderful coffee bars — facilities that hospitals seem to take pride in — are closed. Please, figure out a way to have decent coffee and tea, fruit, and yogurt for families that are staying around with loved ones into the evening and on weekends. Perhaps a solution can connect hospital wireless and the cafe, encouraging families who are sticking close to hospitalized loved ones, to buy food at the cafe and work — without away-from-job angst — on their computers.
    • Offer some religious programming at the beautiful chapels that hospitals incorporate into their buildings. How about a devotional, a brief mass, or prayers, or blessings? Plenty of ministers, rabbis, imams, and other religious leaders live or work near these hospital, and many probably visit often. These leaders can facilitate these events — activities that would be great stress-relievers.
It’s looking like Dad will be here at least one more day. Coming soon – a story about an outstanding young woman who was our nurse.

4 thoughts on “Senior Parent Hospitalization, #3: Four Ways to Reduce Stress for Patient Families

  1. Pingback: Senior Parent Hospitalization Report #2: Peace and Quiet « As Our Parents Age

  2. Pingback: Senior Parent Hospitalization, Report #1: This Hospital Gets It « As Our Parents Age

  3. Hospital personnel should take this report seriously for improvement of an already superior environment at RMH. I provided a suggestion regarding spiritual services to a floor manager before we left. The interfaith chapel is great and we used it several times. My suggestion was that a time be designated for patients and families
    wishing to worship on their particular holy day. All that is needed is a designated time for each major religious group. This should be provided in the packet patients receive on arrival and perhaps various religous symbols and a few hymnals could be available in storage. Since holy days are busy for religious leaders, those who gather at the designated time can form their own worship together.

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