Medical Advocate Ministry
A couple of months ago she fell and broke a hip. The retirement center sent her by ambulance to a large local hospital. After waiting in the ER for a couple of hours the x-rays confirmed that she had indeed fractured her hip. Yet even though she was in the hospital with a fractured hip she was given no pain medicine. The next day family members repeatedly asked for some pain relief and yet the system failed this lady. “The doctor hadn’t written a prescription” the nurse said. Staff had to be pressed to call someone so that some could be given to her.
This was the beginning of a couple of months of frustrating experiences with two hospitals and a rehab facility. Over those months the family frequently and passionately sought answers about this lady’s health and treatment. Medications were not given; including in one facility her regular prescriptions for heart and blood pressure, and in another the anti-biotics for an infection for which she was admitted were missed for two days. Appeals for a catheter to be removed after being moved to the rehab facility, which the hospital said should be done in a day or so, were ignored for two weeks. This led to a urinary infection which left this woman in a dire situation.
Now why am I recounting this story? Not to slam medical professionals. Our health care system is stretching medical staff extremely thin with a myriad or regulations, policies and demands that they have to take care of. Instead I raise it because this is an all too frequent situation, and when people are physically or mentally unable to advocate for themselves during these times it places them in a very dangerous place. For congregations this is a need that we can do something about. It is an opportunity for a ministry team to be created in many congregations which would help keep up with the needs of those who are vulnerable and need advocates. This wouldn’t be for all who are hospitalized but only for those without family or friends to watch out or for those who are not mentally or physically able to do it for themselves (e.g. Alzheimer’s, etc.). What might it look like? Obviously there are HIPPA laws which would need to be dealt with as well as the wishes of the individual himself/herself (e.g. privacy, whether they want you to help, …).
*Possibly someone who watches what is going on and the progress or lack of progress in healing,
*Possibly someone who becomes knowledgeable in the patient’s health (allergies, when things were done or not done (when they ate, were given medications, given therapy),
*Possibly someone who raises question with staff when he/she sees something going astray,
*Possibly someone who helps be a communication conduit to those the patient would like to ‘be kept in the loop’,
I am sure you could think of many ways this could be helpfully enacted. With this family visiting daily it was still difficult to catch oversights or to keep things on a good track. With nobody watching there is sure to be things that need to be seen that are simply not. How can we help watch over those who are vulnerable?