Let's say you're in the hospital. I don't want you to be there, but for the purposes of this column, you are.
If we had a choice, "Should I go to a movie or to the hospital?" every one of us would choose the movie option. Unless, that is, we were feeling totally lousy. And that is exactly how you felt when you were admitted.
I am making this up, but let's say you're in the hospital after a weekend of indulgent eating with visiting family. You grabbed late-night snacks from a table of too-rich foods that should have been refrigerated hours before, and you got a raging case of food poisoning. As an older adult, you're more susceptible to foodborne illness. (Remember that.)
You were violently ill when the 911 responders came. I will not go into detail, which I am sure you appreciate, but one of them indicated he'd not ever seen such a severe case of food-related illness. You were very sick for a few days.
But there's more to this story. You left your home abruptly the night you were hospitalized and were not able to bring a list of your medications. Actually, you didn't even have a medication list. You've been intending to create one and put it in your wallet, but you'd just not gotten around to it.
So the folks at the hospital were unaware of how much blood-pressure medication you were taking or the fact you took a baby aspirin daily, in addition to all those health-store herbals. They didn't have any way of knowing you were allergic to codeine.
The clinicians at the hospital made the best treatment call they could without having all the information they needed. As a point of record, the information we think gets shared easily and automatically across medical practitioners — we often believe our health provider knows exactly what medications our rheumatologist prescribed — is just not necessarily so.
But let's get back to you. After a few less-than-fun days in the hospital, you finally go home. You are discharged with a new prescription regimen. But you still have those old meds in your medicine cabinet at home and you think you should probably take those too. And you do. And what happens? Predictably, you ended up in the hospital again.
Not good. Not for you or for the system. Medicare is putting its foot down about re-hospitalization, and there is now a penalty on hospital systems with high re-admission rates. Local hospital administrations are working valiantly to avoid those additional costs.
But it's not just their issue — it's ours. Really, yours and mine. It starts with each of us. Making informed decisions about what we eat and when is certainly important. In your case, it would have kept you from being hospitalized in the first place. Let's assume you learned that lesson. And I'm glad you're back home. Do you have that up-to-date medication list with all the drugs you're taking (prescription and non-prescription), dosage, date started, allergies etc.? You do? Good.
Now, go to a movie. Easy on the buttered popcorn.
Sharon Johnson is a retired Oregon State University associate professor in public health and human sciences. You can reach her at 541-261-2037 or Sharon@hmj.com.