– Kathy Johnson, PhD, CMC
You would think hospitals, where you are surrounded by nurses, doctors and medical staff, are one of the safest places to be. However this is sadly not the case. With one or two busy nurses working 12-hour shifts and handling many patients with critical needs, it can be a long wait before anyone comes to check on you. Plus, it only takes an instant for a dangerous fall to occur. 10% of fatal falls for older adults occur in hospitals. Dementia, disorientation and medication are the leading factors that contribute to falls in hospitals.
The best safety precaution is a specialized caregiver known as a “hospital sitter.” Hospital sitters provide round-the-clock companionship and make observations of any health problems. Sitters can monitor and keep patients company, converse and read or even run necessary errands. However, sitters cannot aid or participate in any patient care or physical contact and must stay out of the way of hospital staff.
Sitters are under the direction of the hospital’s registered nurses. In the event of an urgent need, fall or medical emergency, the sitter will be there to immediately summon the nurse in charge. One of the most helpful tasks that sitters can do is to keep a journal. Sitters can record every doctor visit/outcome that occurs during their shift and describe any procedures done and the expected and actual outcomes. Sitters can also maintain emergency contact information for the patient’s family, as well as essential legal documents—including a copy of the patient’s Advanced Directives, in case a relative is unable to be contacted for a critical decision.
Hospital sitters provide peace of mind for the patient’s family. They supply vigilance that ensures safety and companionship and reduce a patient’s boredom and depression. They also enable the patient’s family to go home and rest, knowing their loved one will never be alone.
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