My Loved One is the Hospital—Now What?

When a family member is in the hospital, it can be a frightening experience. We oftenKaren Curtiss ask ourselves, “What can I do to help?   Because many our clients have similar concerns when their loved ones are in the hospital, I reached out and talked with an expert in the field, Karen Curtiss

Karen is the Founder of CampaignZERO Families for Patient Safety and the author of the book, Safe & Sound in the Hospital: Must Have Checklists and Tools for Your Loved One’s Care.

Wendy: I love the tagline of your organization, “To all the world you are just one person. But to one person you could mean the world.” It is so powerful, tell me what inspired you to start Campaign Zero Families for Patient Safety.

Karen: It is great to talk with you– I am so happy for the chance to share CampaignZERO with you and your readers. I started CampaignZERO because I was determined to transform my family’s multiple tragedies into better healthcare outcomes for others. I scoured medical textbooks, reviewed clinical studies, and talked with patient safety experts across the world to learn about how hospital care is managed; where there are potential cracks in care, and the best practices to prevent them.

Wendy: I’m sure you learned a great deal! We’d love to hear about a few of the main points.

Karen: When we have a loved one in the hospital, it can be challenging to know what to do, or say, or what questions are important to ask. There are many things within our control that we don’t even realize; areas where we can be an active care partner for our loved ones, especially to help make sure they don’t suffer any complications that require a longer hospital stay.

First and foremost, it is so important that every patient has someone with them. Studies show that patients forget 80% of what they hear. Add the often overwhelming and confusing shared information, it is completely natural to feel intimidated by the environment and situation.

Second, at Campaign ZERO, we offer multiple free checklists you can follow to help you feel more confident navigating hospital care and preventing common complications like infections, blood clots, bed sores and falls—all which are common.

Wendy: Can you give us a few examples of simple things we can do to help our loved ones when in the hospital?

Karen: Absolutely!

  1. Use a notebook to take notes and keep track of important details—information shared by the medical team, medications tests and test results, questions you think of when the physician and nurse aren’t present, their names and the roles they play in of those providing care
  2. Everyone needs to wash their hands before touching the patient. This applies to everyone: visitors, medical professionals, and even the patients themselves, especially before eating. If soap and warm water is out of reach for the patient, an alcohol gel works great as well. Use alcohol wipes or bleach wipes to “detail” these high touch items: TV remote, telephone, bed rails, bedside chair and table, call buttons, facets, doorknobs, etc.
  3. Encourage discussion between the caregivers and your loved one. Every morning, ask “What is the plan of care today?” Don’t be afraid to speak up and voice your loved one’s goals and to ask “why” about anything. Sometimes knowing the reason why for certain recommendations helps the patient feel more motivated to follow their doctors’ recommendations.
  4. Be helpful and show appreciation—when possible, assist the healthcare team with simple day-to-day activities; help keep the hospital room neat and tidy, introduce visitors to the care team, and compliment those who are especially caring and attentive.

And finally, take your CampaignZERO checklists to the hospital and follow them

Wendy: Thank you, Karen, this information and the resources on your website are so helpful. I appreciate your time and thank you for all the free resources you have provided for those who need them! Additional information on CampaignZERO Families for Patient Safety and the checklists can be found at:

Karen: My pleasure! I’m excited that we are all working together and partnering with the health care providers to positively impact the health and safety of our loved ones.


If you are in a situation where you or a loved one is facing a complex healthcare issue, we are here for you. At 2×2 Health: Private Health Concierge, we are compassionate experts who work with you and your family to support you. We inspire confidence and navigate complexity. We are not just here to change how care is managed, we’re here to change lives for the better.

Healthcare with you. Healthcare for you.

Wendy Benson, MBA, OTR/L

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