Years ago, before I became a real estate professional and long before I ever dreamed of launching 360Women, I enjoyed a career in the healthcare industry – including a series of unique opportunities that led to a role in patient advocacy.
Generally speaking, there are two distinct types of patient advocates: Those who work for the hospital or medical facility and those who work for the individual patient. As one might imagine, it’s extremely difficult to work for both at the same time, and I soon discovered working for the patient was my strength. But I also learned that working with both parties to find common ground that still favored the patient was the real key to a successful outcome.
I would usually meet a referred client-patient soon after diagnosis of their condition. We’ve all been told about the value of getting a second opinion (and it’s sound advice), but the road to set up such consultations can be arduous and exhausting for both patients and their caregivers. A professional advocate provides patients and families with an objective set of eyes & ears and, thus, an independent opinion, while a plan of treatment is being developed.
In my work with patients seeking help during their doctor’s visits or medical center hospitalizations, I met many people experiencing long stays in sterile rooms. Days run into nights and nights can seem eternal when you’re waiting in an unfamiliar place.
Being a translator of “doctor-speak” was the easy part of advocacy. Keeping client-patients calm after surgery or during long extended treatments proved to be far more difficult.
Then I discovered a wonderful, remarkable, simple tool: A soft, colorful, 100% cotton quilt became a gift to each new client-patient after surgery or treatment.
In addition to the emotional comfort that comes from receiving a gift and the physical comfort derived from its warmth and weight, these quilts also served as twin-sized banner that sent a silent message to all the medical professionals who entered each patient’s room.
That message was simple: Be aware. This person is not just a patient. He or she is a unique human being coping with a serious illness and has someone nearby who not only cares, but is paying attention.
The impact of these small gifts was enormous; not just on the patients who received them but on the staff members who saw them. It humanized the entire experience and created a connection between all involved.
The good news is you don’t have to be professional patient advocate to create a comfy environment for a patient’s room. Bring photos of friends or family in plastic frames (plastic is much easier to clean) and place them on the patient’s side table. No frames? Bring push pins and copies of pictures that you can put on the patient board.
If you like the quilt idea, do not bring an antique blanket or family heirloom. There’s always a chance they’ll become soiled and medical center staff will not clean such quilts or blankets. Instead, bring a new one that’s completely machine washable. Every three days you’ll need to wash and dry the quilt either at your home or a nearby laundromat.
This recovery concept has become so popular and effective, a number of national and local organizations now provide quilts and blankets to hundreds or thousands of patients each year. Many hospital systems and non-profit foundations also provide volunteer opportunities to donate or make patient blankets. Giving Comfort and the Woodywoof Project are just two of them.
The bad news is that the expense and lack of funding for such programs has caused many of these organizations – like Layers of Love – to reduce or complete discontinue such services.
So, once again, I urge you to consider the kind of programs that are important to you, the kind of world in which you want to live, the kind of impact you want to have on others – and then find the local, state and federal candidates who share your values.
Investigate their platforms. Discover their beliefs. Consider the consequences. Then vote.