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Health & Balance

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Taking Charge of Your Hospital Stay

Experts explain four steps that empower patients to manage their health needs from a hospital bed.

Step 1: Get to Know Yourself continued...

As a result, she says her mother not only knows what to expect from herself and her body as the years pass, but is also better prepared to make health care decisions when the time arrives. She is also better able to discuss her needs with family members.

"In the event my mother finds herself in the hospital not only will she be better prepared for the experience, but our whole family will be better prepared to help her, because we have some sense of what will happen and what she wants and needs," says Correoso.

Burke says it's especially important to have this heart-to-heart talk with your doctor if you have health problems that could worsen significantly over time.

"You not only need to know what to expect, you need to discuss the range of treatment options that are open to you should your condition worsen, " Burke tells WebMD.

In the event that you have to make choices, she says, it's infinitely easier to make the right one if you can draw on previous knowledge about your options.

Also important: While you're talking to your doctor, discuss the task of overseeing your medical care should it become necessary for more than one expert to become involved.

"Sometimes a patient will just assume that their internist or even their specialist will take charge of their hospital care, but this doesn't happen automatically," says Burke.

If this is what you want, she says talk to your doctor beforehand and make sure she or he agrees to play an advisory role, even if your treatment involves other specialists.

Step 2: Make Friendships Count

Whether or not your personal doctor takes charge of your care, experts say you cannot underestimate the importance of having an additional source of support in the form of a friend or relative who can be your health care advocate during a hospital stay.

"It's vital to have someone you can trust to keep an eye on what's going on, to help you make decisions, and to ensure the decisions you make are being communicated properly to those caring for you," says Correoso.

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