June 2001

When a parent is hospitalized it is an emotionally draining situation for the entire family. When the family is large, maintaining effective communication between all the family members and doctors can be a special challenge.

Creative communication

Jean is the mother of six adult children. At 72, she had many health problems that were complicated by a new diagnosis of cancer. She was hospitalized repeatedly after chemotherapy.

The family received conflicting information from the many doctors involved in her care. One doctor was hopeful while another wanted to make a referral to hospice. The family was confused and frustrated with the poor information they were receiving.

Initially, the family held a meeting with the doctors, but no one followed up with regular meetings after the first one. Also, the doctors in charge changed depending upon which nursing unit she was on, and this added to the confusion.

There were many specialists involved in her care, and the family had many questions. They decided to keep a notebook at their mother's bedside. All family members listed their questions in this book. Anytime the doctor saw their mother, the family member present asked the questions. The answers were written down for everyone to review. The family also kept a small tape recorder at the bedside to record the doctor's statements.


In the hospital, one doctor has the overall responsibility of the patient's care. However, many different health care providers will be involved and can contribute valuable information about the patient's status. Keeping track of all the updates can be difficult.

Jean's family devised clever ways to communicate with each other and get information from all the specialists. Work with the doctor to develop a way to stay informed about your loved one. You can start by asking a few key questions:

  • How often will you tell us the results of tests?
  • How often will you update us on the plan of care?
  • Can we have regular family meetings?

Health Care Answers uses stories of real people trying to take care of their health. Tell us your story. The stories we use in our publications are from people like you. The purpose of these true stories is to help others learn how to use the medical system more effectively. Click here if you want to submit a story.

Check back next month for more Personal Stories.

Past Stories 2000

Past Stories 2001
January  |  February  |  March  |  April  |  May  |  June  |  July  |  August  |  September  |  October  |  November  |  December

Past Stories 2002
January  |  February  |  March  |  April  |  May  |  Summer  |  September

Past Stories 2003
Winter  |  Spring


We subscribe to the HONcode principles of the Health On the Net Foundation

We subscribe to the HONcode principles of the
Health On the Net Foundation
Last Updated May 2003
© October 2000 Health Care Answers   Funding Statement  |  Disclaimer  |  Privacy Policy
email: info@HealthCareAnswers.net