Choosing a hospital for anyone is a tough decision, but choosing one for an elderly patient can mean the difference in the person’s quality of life, especially if the condition the person is being hospitalized for is chronic or very serious. Family members have many considerations to make concerning the hospital choice. Which is more important—convenient location or the quality of care? Does the hospital specialize in the procedures the elderly loved one needs? Should safety ratings be procured and scrutinized? How long will the hospital stay be? These are just a sampling of the things to consider when choosing the right hospital for an elderly loved one.
Convenience or Quality of Care
The top question is one of quality of care over convenience of location. What if the hospital that provides better care according to their ratings and the results of the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) is located much further away than the closest hospital? How to choose? While convenience might seem like the better option, it is important to focus on the quality of care. Driving a shorter distance might seem like a more plausible option, but when the potential frustrations of less than optimal care are taken into consideration, extra driving may seem like a much lesser inconvenience. At the same time, the emotional support of loved ones is important too, so, if possible, even a well-favored hospital should not be too far away. Consult with the Medicare.gov’s “Hospital Compare” on their website to see what type of quality care to expect from hospitals near and far.
Oftentimes, if an elderly loved one needs a special procedure performed, his or her doctor will recommend a specialist who is affiliated with a particular hospital. Sometimes, though, specialists are tied into various hospitals, each with different ratings. It is important to consult with the specialist about the conditions provided at each hospital, but it is also important to check with the Hospital Compare website because the specialist will only be with the elderly loved one during the procedure itself. The rest of the time, he or she will be left to the care of the other staff members, which is why understanding the level of experience and successes at each hospital is crucial.
Something people rarely think about, but which is crucial, are the safety ratings of the hospital. Sites like Consumer Reports focus on the safety score of a hospital, which reports on things like:
- The number of infections reported as a result of a stay at a particular hospital
- The number of readmissions as a result of incorrect or ineffective treatment
- The level of safety measures taken when new medications or procedures are prescribed
- The rate of mortality
- The rate of complications that occur as a result of treatment at the hospital
The safety ratings are something family members should strongly consider, especially as an infection or mistake can greatly affect an elderly person.
Length of Stay
It is important to determine whether a loved one will be staying in the hospital for the long term or if it is a short stay. For example, is this the person’s end-of-life stay, or is it a quick medical treatment fter which he or she will go home? There is a vast difference between the two. For end-of-life stays, the loved one should be as comfortable as possible and receive the most caring treatment; inquiring as to whether the hospital administers hospice treatment or palliative care is important. Possibly a separate hospice facility, especially one that is close to family members, would be more important. However, for a one-time, relatively short term treatment, the focus should be more on the quality of the treatments and the suggestions of the doctor.
Choosing a hospital for an elderly patient involves many different variables. One hospital might be right for one elderly patient and completely wrong for another, or right for an elderly person at one stage of his or her treatment and wrong for end-of-life considerations. Using the available ratings resources as well as the referrals of medical professionals and other patients will help with wise decision-making.
Family members and caregivers should not hesitate to ask questions and look into issues before making any decisions and avoid making the mistake of simply finding the closest hospital. Doing research on the variables noted above as well as any other significant variables in the specific case of a loved one will result in better care overall.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). HCAHPS: Patients’ Perspective of Care Survey. Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems. CMS.gov. Retrieved from https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Quality-Initiatives-Patient-Assessment-instruments/HospitalQualityInits/HospitalHCAHPS.html. Accessed on August 1, 2016.
Consumer Reports. (July 2013). How to Choose a Hospital. Retrieved from http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2013/01/how-to-choose-a-hospital/index.htm. Accessed on August 1, 2016.
Medicare.gov. Hospital Compare. Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/hospitalcompare/search.html?. Accessed on August 5, 2016.