What To Know When A Loved One Is Hospitalized

At some point in their life, nearly everyone deals with the stress of having a loved one in the hospital, whether it’s an elderly relative seeking end-of-life care, a child taking a trip to the ER after a playground tumble, or a friend who has been in a serious car accident. No matter the circumstances, a hospitalized loved one can mean stress and confusion. Plus, there may be worries about if they are receiving the best possible care. No one wants to think about the day when they get the news that a loved one has been hospitalized, but by planning ahead, knowing your loved one’s wishes, and being aware of issues like malpractice and neglect, you can make a loved one’s hospital stay easier for everyone.

Communication is Key

Even before a hospitalization, communication is key. Have a conversation with your loved ones about emergency contacts, and make sure that you will be contacted if they are suddenly hospitalized. If you would like to be an emergency contact, have your loved one put your name down in any medical paperwork they fill out at the doctor or other specialist, and ensure that the information stays updated.

You can also have your loved one designate you as an emergency contact in their phone by listing you as an “ICE” contact. If you type “ICE” before someone’s name in the contact list, paramedics and other first responders know to call them first in the event of an emergency, like a car accident. There are also apps that allow information to be displayed on a phone’s lock screen, so that paramedics can access emergency contacts and other information even from a locked screen.

For children, consider having them carry a list of emergency contacts in an easily accessible spot, like on a keychain attached to their backpack. Make sure your children and other family members have your number memorized.

Tough Conversations

If possible, you should also communicate with your loved ones about their plans and wishes. For example, you should know the answers to questions like:

  • Do they have a “do not resuscitate” order?
  • Are they opposed to life-sustaining measures, like a feeding tube or ventilator?
  • Do they have any religious or personal beliefs that would cause them to reject certain treatments?
  • Is there a power of attorney in place?
  • What are their funeral plans?
  • Do they have a will?

Questions like these are never comfortable. However, knowing a loved one’s wishes is incredibly important in the event of a hospitalization. Knowing a loved one’s plans not only ensures that their desires are honored, but can also save you a lot of stress.

When a loved one is in the hospital, you should make sure you are aware of everything that is going on. Take lots of notes. Make sure you record the names of any doctors, nurses, and anyone else who is caring for your loved one. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for clarification. Speak up if you think your loved one is uncomfortable or receiving inadequate treatment.

Stay Alert

You should also be aware of issues like malpractice, neglect, and abuse. Medical malpractice, which includes everything from surgical errors to misdiagnoses, is the third leading cause of death in the United States, resulting in around 250,000 deaths every year. While it can arise from a doctor’s malicious intentions, malpractice is more likely to result through errors and inadequacies such as:

  • Understaffing
  • Inadequate training
  • Miscommunications among staff
  • Poor documentation
  • Equipment failures

To protect a loved one from malpractice, be aware of issues like these. Speak up if you see something that doesn’t seem right.

Know The Signs

You should also be aware of the signs of abuse and neglect, especially for elderly loved ones. Abuse is a particular danger for elderly patients. In a hospital setting, abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, or even financial. You should be aware of warning signs like:

  • Unexplained injuries
  • Injuries that happen consistently
  • Injuries at varying rates of healing
  • Bleeding in the genital area
  • Torn or bloodied clothing
  • Sudden behavioral changes
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Missing or changed legal documents
  • Unexplained money withdrawals

Be aware of anyone who is working with your loved one and look out for any suspicious behavior. If you or your loved one has any complaints or concerns, make sure they are immediately addressed.

Having a loved one in the hospital is never a pleasant time, especially if the circumstances are sudden or traumatic. While it is hopefully something you do not have to deal with soon, start taking steps and learning more now so that you can be prepared for the future.


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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