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What Seniors Should Know About Patient Safety | Generations Home Care
A women receives an injection in her left arm from a female healthcare provider with patient safety in mind.

No one wants to end up in the hospital — but of course, life doesn’t always go as planned. Each year, hospitals treat about 36 million admissions in the USA alone. When we’re sick or injured, we rely on our medical providers’ expertise to help us get well. But doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals are only human and thus subject to human error. Whether from a misdiagnosis, poor sanitation, or grabbing the wrong bottle of a similarly-labeled medication, these errors are a reality of modern medical care. As a result, staying in a hospital can sometimes result in all-new health complications. While patient safety procedures help stop preventable harm to patients in a doctor’s care, injury from unsafe medical care is among the top ten causes of premature death worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in ten patients in high-income countries are harmed while receiving hospital care, and 50 percent of those incidents are preventable.  

Seniors are at a higher risk of experiencing a patient safety incident. As we get older, our medical needs often grow more complex. Many seniors take multiple prescriptions and have chronic conditions like osteoporosis, which increases their risk of getting hurt. Seniors are also more likely to be hospitalized than other age groups, which means there’s more opportunity for errors. For Patient Safety Week this March, let’s explore a few ways that patient safety can affect your life and ways you can keep yourself safe while receiving care. 

What Is A Patient Safety Event? 

A patient safety event is any incident in which an error could or does result in harmful consequences for a patient. The most serious form of patient safety events, called “sentinel events,” result in the death, permanent harm, or severe, temporary harm of a patient. 

Patient safety incidents can include: 

  • A foreign object left in a patient after surgery.
  • Surgical site infection.
  • Pressure ulcers.
  • An air embolism.
  • Blood incompatibility.
  • Catheter-associated urinary tract infections.
  • Hospital-acquired injury due to an event such as a fall.

The most common patient safety events are medication errors. Pressure ulcers (also known as bed sores), urinary tract infections, ventilator-associated pneumonia, and sepsis are also high on the list of potential incidents. These errors are expensive, costing approximately $4.5 billion a year, with devastating consequences for the patients affected.

Being in the hospital can make you feel like you’re at the mercy of your doctors. However, you don’t need an M.D. to be a participant in your care. Seniors can and should advocate for their own best interests; after all, no one is more invested in your health than you are!

Help Take Part In Your Welfare

There are many ways you can be an advocate for yourself when receiving medical care. These suggestions are applicable whether you’re an in-patient in the hospital or acquiring a new prescription from your general practitioner. While the most life-threatening patient safety incidents occur in hospitals, patient safety is vital across the board. 

Ask Questions 

Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor or nurse about your treatment. While hospital policy will often require that nurses and doctors communicate with the patient before administering medication, this can fall by the wayside with time and repetition. If something feels uncomfortable, or you’re worried your nurse performed a procedure incorrectly, don’t be afraid to speak up. Don’t be afraid to correct your physician’s behavior if you think they’re doing something wrong, such as not sanitizing their hands.

Educate Yourself

One of the most important things you can do is stay informed about your treatment. Be sure you understand what medications you’re receiving and the doses; remember what they look like, what they do, and their common side effects. This can help you identify an unexpected medication reaction or notice if you receive the wrong pill. 

Phone a Friend

If you’re talking to your doctor about a significant procedure or change in treatment, it can be a good idea to have a friend or family member present. When dealing with our own health, we often feel frightened and overwhelmed. Having a person who’s invested in your well-being and can bring up any questions you might not think to ask ensures you’re getting the best care. 

Patient Safety Starts At Home

Of course, there’s only so much that a patient can do to prevent a safety incident. At the end of the day, our health is in the hands of the professionals who treat us. The best way to avoid becoming the victim of a serious patient safety event is to avoid needing to go to the hospital in the first place. An in-home caregiver can help. 

From the comfort of your home, a caregiver can help with crucial preventative care to keep you healthy and happy. Preparing nutritious meals, helping you manage your sleep habits, and monitoring mental health are all essential elements of a caregiver’s duties. They can also prevent falls, a leading cause of hospitalization in elders, by taking care of risky household tasks and helping you get around if you’re not as steady on your feet as you used to be. At Generations Home Care, we aim to reduce readmissions to the hospital by helping you get the best care at home. With a home caregiver, you can feel safer, independent, and in charge of your own health.

About Generations Home Care

Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury, or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier, and independent life.

Our caregivers are trained in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended COVID-19 safety precautions. We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasizes a consistent, client-centered plan of care.

Our Specialty Services Include:

  • Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
  • Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
  • Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
  • Veteran’s connection to care program.
  • Live-in services and couples care.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.


About the author - Josh Friesen

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