Mediquettes is a term coined by me. It is the combination of medical aspects of life and etiquettes to be followed therein. In recent times, life expectancy has gone up. With the increase in life expectancy, people fall sick more times in their lifetime, than they would have, even 70 years back. People died much earlier in those times compared to today. Hence people were taken to hospitals less frequently. Now we are regularly required to meet a relative or a friend who is being treated at a hospital.
There are etiquettes to be followed during hospital visitations or when we go to meet the persons taking treatment at home. To me, the protocols are to be followed by visitors as well as the medical fraternity. With an increase in life span, people face various illnesses which were not prevalent before. The treatment and the support needed in some cases are quite extensive.
I will share my personal experience when I went through my cancer treatment five years back. I had to undergo 34 radiation sessions. My oncologists had told me that I would have a problem swallowing, after three to four weeks of radiations. Hence a feeding tube was inserted from day one through my nose to the stomach. After about four weeks, I had to take formula food through the feeding tube (8 feeds a day). Jaya had to handle this with some support in between from Sachin and sometimes Priya and Ashwini. Each feed required an hour, including preparation and cleaning, and there were eight such feeds every day. On top of this our granddaughter, Rhea was two months old; her feeds were also to be managed. Things became very hectic as Jaya had to coordinate other stuff besides my feeds. We took a decision not to receive any phone calls. We informed people that we could not receive phone calls. Most people understood that there must be a hectic schedule; hence calls were not answered. But some people were upset and said so. We informed as many people as possible by mail or WhatsApp messages.
The first etiquette we all need to follow is to give family space and time. Don’t pressurise people by going to meet them. When in the hospital, there are hundreds of things that need to be tracked. Sometimes staff forgets to give medicines, other times they don’t come on time when the patient needs support. When a patient is in CCU/ICU, we should never go to meet them. In many hospitals, now they don’t allow visitors to meet such patients. If someone has undergone surgery, give the patient a few days to recover before going to meet them.
WhatsApp groups have created an awkward situation. When alumni groups form, we get in touch with friends from olden times. But at my age, a lot of water has flown down the bridge. We interchange, share posts with each other. We start thinking that we know friends very well. But there are many friends on the group, whom we have never even met during college times. They become our fair weather friends now, because of their alumni contact.
A few of our friends are undergoing treatment for paralysis. In paralysis, physical functions get challenged, and patients physical activity gets restricted. In such cases, some of the patients do not like even close friends to come and meet them. Since WA groups create an atmosphere of camaraderie, many people who were unknown even in college time, go to meet the patient. Such an act is forcing something unwanted. Avoid it. Instead, try to communicate with the spouse and ask if some help is needed and give it when required.
Some people do not know how to counsel people. In their enthusiasm to help the patient, they share some examples in which the patients worsened or died! Such instances put the patient in a sombre mood. Instead, one should hold a hand and maybe, say nothing.
Many a time people take some food with them; avoid it. If the patient does not have a separate room, then it can become difficult even to store foodstuff. Patients generally eat food decided by the treating doctor and served by the hospital. One can take the person supporting, for a cup of tea to reduce that person‘s stress. Sometimes that person may want to share somethings, but the person cannot discuss such things in front of the patient. In the case of paralysis, sometimes the treatment and support are needed for a couple of years or more. During that period the persons whole family is under duress, jumping from one therapy to another, trying something different. Giving them space becomes essential rather than only meeting them. Try and take over a session or two of support, if you can. That is more helpful.
Medical fraternity and overall hospital systems are under terrific pressure all the time because, during health issues, family members do not understand the intricacies of the treatments. They keep on probing and pushing for more information. Most of the staff and doctors manage smiling faces. But it is not easy. Medical fraternity must understand that the very nature of their job needs them to have a smiling face all the time. But many times it does not happen.
The instructions to staff are very vague, sometimes. A patient being treated for a severe migraine attack needs peaceful sleep. But other than doctors, many people keep on disturbing the patient. Cleaning team, survey team, counselling team and the list goes on and on. Every 30 minutes someone will come and make noise, put the lights on, ask the sleeping patient if she is sleeping well! Come on use common sense!
The billing process in hospitals is one of the most distressfull methods that creates stress. Whether you are paying cash, or you are covered under cashless medical insurance, they take at least 2 to 3 hours to process your bill. I have seen an accounting staff from the hospital, soliciting the patient‘s relatives to pay cash and the claim the payment from the insurance!
During my treatment for Cancer, I was given a drug intravenously every Monday. It cost around Rs.6.5/ lacs. The company supplying the drug supposedly provides eight doses at a time. My body could not take more than five doses and then that treatment was discontinued and the primary purpose was served. Balance three doses, worth Rs.2.5/ lacs remained with the hospital; we suggested them to give those doses to the needy when required. No needy patient has yet turned up, even after five years! Ordering more than necessary according to me is a great shame.
Recently, I came to know the story of a person who died. He had a heart condition and was fitted with the pacemaker. After death, the hospital staff said that they are removing the pacemaker and just took it away.
Hospital stories can go on and on. In our culture, we feel forced to rush and meet someone who is unwell. This creates an overload on the whole medical system. The crowds that we see in hospitals are unmanageable. Medical fraternity needs peace of mind, and the patient and his supporting team of friends and family need space. We should help to create an atmosphere which will be beneficial for all. I have not touched the subject of children living in foreign countries when their parents fall sick. It would be a subject for a full blog!