Margaret Fitzpatrick’s book Getting the Best Care: Rescue your loved one from the healthcare conveyor belt is a must read for every adult. Fitzpatrick is a nurse who’s written a great guide for everyone who need to get clarity on options for patients who’re at the end of life. The book contains lots of facts and options with examples of actual stories of people at the end of their lives.
As we age, particularly after age 65 every time we go to the hospital we’re likely to come out diminished. Hospital visits are particularly confusing and troubling as the average person doesn’t know what questions to ask or how to realistically evaluate the outcomes of various treatments. Fitzpatrick shows us how to talk about healthcare with older relatives and with healthcare workers. There are two different worlds, the hospital world and the world we live in, and there needs to be an adjustment in our view of what to ask and how to communicate so that older relatives and eventually ourselves have conversations that honor our wishes and don’t result in a lot of tests and treatments that do more harm than good.
Much of the book covers Fitzpatrick’s mother’s desire to never go into the hsopital. The mother of 9, who died after her 99th birthday, Fitzpatrick’s mother Alma. Alma never wanted to be hospitalized as she got older. As Fitzpatrick shows, that’s not a bad outlook as most of the elderly diminish in mental acuity and physical health with each hospitalization. While Alma did go to the hospital for a broken hip, because her daughter and other children understood Alma’s beliefs on autonomy and quality of life they were able to minimize the time spent in the hospital and able to see that she died as she wished, at home, in peace surrounded by loved ones after a rich life. In addition, Fitzpatrick uses stories of her patients, her brother and ex husband to provide context to how hospitalization effects older patients and how family or advocates can get better communicate to get the right kind of care and to manage expectations.
In a hospital patients are likely to be cared for by dozens of professionals and are often given several tests even when they have a diagnosis for a condition that has no cure anyway. Fitzpatrick’s book gave me the right way to ask the right questions. She also showed me that I should ask what the likely outcome can be, if there’s no cure or the treatment will cause more harm than good.
Chapters cover individual healthcare goals, codes in hospitals, setting realistic healthcare goals, testing, asking the right questions, advocating for loved ones with dementia, palliative care and hospice, nursing homes, and more. The book does not advocate against all hospitalization or to just cut grandma off from medical help, it just shows readers what they can do to better insure that loved one’s care is what they really want.