December 26th, 2012 at 10:00 am
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Guide to choosing a hospital for seniors

by Dorian Martin

As a caregiver, I’ve been to the hospital more times than I wanted during the past two decades. Most of those trips were to the emergency room with my mother due to breathing issues that were exacerbated by her advanced case of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

I also accompanied my father twice when he needed procedures done on his arteries. During the first of those procedures, Dad had 90-percent blockage in one carotid artery. I remember our family having a serious conversation about where the surgery should take place. Should he go to the regional hospital in the isolated small city where he lived, or have the operation in a hospital in a major metropolitan area that several family members could easily travel to? After going back and forth quite a bit, he finally listened to Mom (and me) and selected the latter option.

It would have been helpful at the time to have a guide to walk us through that decision-making process. Now there is one.

Seniors, caregivers and families: how to decide on a hospital

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services now has a Guide to Choosing a Hospital, in English and Spanish. The guide recommends asking the elder’s doctor or health care provider which hospitals they’re affiliated with and which hospitals might provide the best care for the elder’s specific condition. This publication also has information about topics such as these:

  • Inpatient and outpatient services
  • Elders’ rights in the hospital
  • How to file a complaint about the hospital care
  • Additional resources about Medicare

This useful guide includes a checklist to help structure a family’s conversations about choosing a hospital.

Web tool with snapshot of hospitals

The Medicare site also offers a Hospital Compare Web tool to identify hospitals in a particular area and compare certain measures of quality, for example:

  1. How hospitals rank in a survey of recently discharged patients
  2. How hospitals in your area, and around the nation, care for patients with certain conditions
  3. How often hospitals recommend treatments for conditions such as heart attack, pneumonia and surgery
  4. Hospital rates of readmission and 30-day death rates for certain conditions as compared to the national rate

Obviously, if there’s an emergency, it’s best to take the elder immediately to the nearest hospital for treatment. However, if you have the luxury of time before a procedure is needed, these resources could help you make informed decisions. For more thoughts on caregiving and hospitals, see my other blog posts on related topics:

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