The hospital won't update me on my aunt's condition even though I'm her primary caregiver, what can I do?

2 answers | Last updated: Sep 23, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

I have been the primary caretaker for my aunt who is 90 years old for around 11 years. She lived with me for 3 years but has lived on her own for the past several years. I do all of her shopping and take her to all her appoointments and am on her social security etc as able to recieve information. She is in the hospital and not well enough to sign a poa. Her daughter who was not raised by her and only sees her once or twice a year is now at the hospital all the time and the hospital has said that she is the emergency contact and I cannot ask any questions of the nurses. She has requested that I be added but they said they only want one person. I was the point of contact when she was brought into emergency at the hospital but they have sinces removed me and wont even tell me how she is if I call.

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

The hospital policy of requiring medical reports to one caregiver must feel mean-spirited and wrong to you"”but for better or worse, it is not uncommon. Most hospitals have a similar rule: specifying that one person, usually a family member, should be designated to receive medical information about a patient if there is no medical power of attorney in place.

The reasoning some offer is that medical staffers need to concentrate on caregiving rather than becoming involved in family politics. The theory is that the designated person will share important information with others who need or want to know it. But as you may be finding out, the lines of communication do not always work directly.

Ideally, you'll be able to work out this matter informally. I sense there may be some resentment or bad blood between you and the daughter. But emphasizing that you both have your aunt's best interests at heart, you may be able to break through and appeal to the daughter's good faith. She might then be willing to share information about your aunt in a structured way: perhaps a quick phone call or email on specific times or days. If the illness is protracted, she may even come to appreciate some help and respite with the visiting and monitoring.

If you have been able to visit and get to know any of the usual caregivers in the hospital, you might also find one who is willing to "bend the rules" and at least give you a basic report about your aunt's condition.

If these approaches don't work, consider consulting the hospital ombudsman, which is charged with helping to work out issues with patient care. He or she may be able to help suggest some creative solutions that have worked in that particular hospital in the past.

Community Answers

Marly26 answered...

If you were her sole provider for so many years, you should have some sort of paper statig that you are her 'Primary Caregiver". Unfortunatly because she has a blood relative (her daughter) even though she has really never been around there isn't anything you can do without these papers. If she has done her will which I am sure she has, her legal representative should have had something drawn up giving you access to her Medical State. Again you have to have something done up via her legal rep. stating that you are her primary caregiver. Without this the daughter can as you are already seeing stop you from receiving any medical conditions etc The only other way is to call the hospital stating that you are her "Sister" or blood relative and would like to know what is happening. We all know this to be a little white lie however, if it works then I wish you all of the best. Either that or if at all possible get in touch with her daughter and voice your concerns' that you are worried, set her mind at ease by letting her know in some way that your not out to take her to the cleaners'. Once she gets to know you and that you are only wishing to know how she is, she may relent and share with you what is really happening. Either way I wish you well, nothing is worse than the unknowing and the stress that it bring upon you. My hugs are going out to you.