Carers guide to handling hospitals - information, support & top tips

26 February 2019
Carers guide to handling hospitals - information, support & top tips

If the person you care for needs to go to hospital, it can be a worrying and stressful time for you both.

We’ve put together some tips and advice about all aspects of hospital treatment - from finding a parking space to dealing with hospital stays due to mental ill health.

Is hospital the right place to get treatment?

In cases of injuries or illness, it can be difficult to figure out whether a hospital is the right place to seek help.

As a carer you may be worried about making the wrong decision on behalf of the person you look after. This could cause you to be overcautious and choose to seek help at A&E to be on the ‘safe side’, when in reality you could find the help you need elsewehere. Going to hospital when it’s not necessary can cause delays in already busy A&E departments and minor injury units and prevent those who do need treatment from getting it quickly.

The NHS website has general advice about the types of services available, including pharmacies, minor injury units and A&E departments and when to use them. You can also search for services near you.

Going to A&E

If the person you care for has a condition that means emergency trips to A&E are quite likely, it's a good idea to be prepared. Keep a bag of clothes and wash things ready so you don't have to waste time putting them together in an emergency.

If you need to go to hospital, either minor injury or A&E, check the Derbyshire Community Health Services (DCHS) website for up-to-date info on hospital waiting times.

Hospital appointments

Thousands of people have appointments at hospitals every day. This could be for tests, procedures or treatments to make the person better.

Going to the hospital can feel like hard work and can seem a long day. If you can, take public transport. This will mean you don’t have to worry about finding a parking space.

Derby Teaching Hospital have general info on how to find their sites, parking, drop off bays and disabled parking.

You may also be interested in finding out about patient and visitors services at Derby Teaching Hospitals as well as their PALs service and information leaflets

Chesterfield royal also have advice on finding them, public transport and parking.

If you or the person you support have a lot of appointments at the hospital you can buy a 14 visit parking ticket from the shop in the main entrance for £19.50. There is no time limit in which you have to use the ticket.

Chesterfield Royal also have patient info leaflets so you can read about what to expect when going for different tests and procedures.

If the appointment is at a local Community Hospital, you can find contact details, directions plus patient / carer information leaflets about what to expect on the Derbyshire Community Health Services website.

Going to stay in hospital

For many people going into hospital is planned. This could be for an operation or procedure that they have been waiting for. Or it might be that a hospital stay is the result of a fall or illness.

Most hospitals have good quality information on their websites about what to expect, what to take and other useful information.  

In Derbyshire our acute hospitals are Chesterfield Royal and Derby Royal (part of Derby Teaching Hospitals). If you live near the border of another county or need a treatment that's not available at your nearest hospital, you may be sent to a hospital outside Derbyshire such as King Mill at Sutton in Ashfield, Queens Medical Centre in Nottingham or Stepping Hill in Stockport

Supporting someone in hospital

As a carer, supporting someone who is in hospital can be difficult. You may be used to doing everything for the person and it may feel strange to let the nurses and healthcare assistants take the lead.

Many local hospitals have signed up to the Carers Charter or campaigns such as John's Campaign. The charters / campaigns recognise that carers may want to stay with the person they care for while they are in hospital and be involved in decisions. For a patient, having their usual carer, often a close family member, who they are familiar with often helps to limit the amount of stress and disorientation the person might feel through being in an unfamiliar setting such as a hospital.

You can speak to nursing staff to find out more.

Find out how Chesterfield Royal Hospital support carers on their website

We've got a whole page where you can find out more about caring for someone who is in hospital.

If the person you care for has had an operation or been treated in an acute hospital, they may be transferred to a community hospital for further recuperation before going home. In some cases they might go straight to a community hospital for treatment. In Derbyshire, community hospitals are managed by Derbyshire Community Health Services. They’ve put together a short booklet that explains all about stays in a community hospital

Three Top tips for carers supporting someone in hospital:

  1. A hospital stay can be overwhelming. Doctors often come in and out and give you crucial information about the person you support, and you might talk to multiple doctors at once or over a day. Don't rely on your memory, instead, take good notes or record your conversations with them.
  2. Stress can take its toll on your own health. If you want to, use the time the person is in hospital as a break from caring. Hospital staff will understand and agree a way of keeping in touch. If you want to do this, do not feel guilty! You deserve a break.
  3. If your caring role is going to change when the person is discharge, i.e. if you'll need to give more support with moving and handling and/or won't be able to leave the person on their own for long, it is worth considering having an assessment of your needs as a carer. If you've already had an assessment, you may be able to get a re-assessment based on your new circumstances.  

If the person you look after has a learning disability

If you look after someone with a learning disability, a hospital stay could be a worrying time as they may not understand what is happening and find it difficult to deal with the change in routine.

Learning disabilities nurses work at local hospitals and it's their job to help people with a learning disability when they go into hospital. They will also support carers by giving information, advice and helping to plan admissions and discharges. You can ask hospital staff for the contact details of the learning disability nurse.

Useful resources for learning disability carers:

Mental Health

Sometimes it is necessary for the person you care for to come into hospital if they have mental ill health. 

There are specialist mental health hospital units in Derby and Chesterfield which are managed by Derbyshire Healthcare Foundation Trust (DHcFT). You can find out about the units and how the person will be treated in hospital plus how they work with carers on the Trust's website.

Derbyshire Healthcare Foundation Trust have lots of useful advice for mental health carers on their website, including advice on how to look after your own wellbeing and where to go for support.

Being involved

Derbyshire Healthcare Foundation Trust work to make sure that carers are involved with the care of their loved one as much as they want to and are able to be. To show their commitment to carers, DHcFt have signed up to the national Triangle of Care: Carers Supported standard. Their staff  will speak with carers independently of the patient, include them in care planning wherever possible and involve them in discharge planning.

However, all hospitals have to respect the patient's right to privacy so there may be occassions when hospital staff are not able to give you all the information you want. This will be discussed with you and the reasons explained. You can find out how DHcFT staff make these decisions by reading their Sharing Information with Family and Carers booklet.

The Choice and Medication website is aimed at helping you and the person you care for make an informed decision about treatment, with help and advice on mental health conditions and the medication used to treat them. This may be particularly useful while in hospital as it can help you to understand any new medications that doctors are considering prescribing.

Being discharged from hospital

If the person you support is being discharged from hospital it can difficult trying to remember everything that needs doing and figure out how different services will work together.

The carers checklist on our caring for someone leaving hospital page has some top tips to help you.

If the hospital staff think it is necessary they will ask an Adult Care social worker to assess the social care needs of person you look after to see if they need any more support when they get home.

The hospital may also ask an Occupational Therapist to work alongside the social worker.  Occupational Therapy focuses on rehabilitation that is task based e.g. assessing a patient’s ability to manage activities of daily living. They may assess if the person can use a kettle safely or get up the stairs. If the person struggles with these kind of tasks they will help find solutions.

Getting support

If you feel you aren’t being listened to in hospital, you can ask to speak to the hospitals PALs Team. You will probably find their details on posters around the hospital, on their website or you can ask a member of hospital staff.

If you feel that you struggle to have your say or get your point across, it may be worth finding out about advocacy services.

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