When you spend five days a week in a clinic or hospital, you learn where the amenities are and where they aren’t. Some are conveniently located. Some are not. My years of working in this hospital helped Mom and I a lot … and it helped some others, as well.
One afternoon while waiting in the cancer clinic waiting area, I was surprised to overhear a conversation between two families. They were chatting about the long walk to the cafeteria and the difficulty to get there, eat and still be back in time for their appointment. When the second family agreed that it was challenging, I stepped into the conversation. After apologizing for eavesdropping, I asked if they knew there was a cafeteria on another floor in the adjacent building. The shocked look on their faces told me the answer. They did not … and they had made the long trek to the cafeteria several more times than they cared to admit. I explained how to find the closer cafeteria, gave them a bit of information about the hours and types of food available. While they were very appreciative I shared the information, they were also frustrated they had never known this tidbit of information before. To further the lack of information about a full-service cafeteria nearby, the infusion suite had a printed menu for the cafeteria at the other end of the complex rather than the closer cafeteria at their registration desk.
Prominently located outside the cancer center entrance, near the stairs to the infusion suite, and next to the elevator, is a coffee shop. Needless to say, it is a very busy place since it is the primary source of food and drink for the area. While this is a viable option for getting a snack and drink, if you are at the clinic for the entire day and have food sensitivities due to the cancer treatments received, it is not the best option.
As the caregiver of a cancer patient, I found myself spending a lot of time in pharmacies. Whether it was for pain medication, anti-nausea pills, or antibiotics, I was there at least once a week. The first trip the pharmacy provided more exercise than needed. The pharmacist spent time during Mom’s first chemotherapy treatment explaining all of her chemo drugs as well as the additional medications they were prescribing. What he forgot to share (or maybe I didn’t hear) was that the medications would be sent to a pharmacy located right outside of the infusion suite – one I wasn’t aware of. Mom and I went to the pharmacy in the adjacent building, the one I was aware of. It was not a long distance away, and thankfully Mom’s energy level was good. But it was surprising to arrive at a pharmacy only to be told that there wasn’t anything there for us to pick up.
Hats and Wigs
At some point after she started losing her hair, Mom was told the hospital salon had wigs and hats available. Unfortunately, she learned of this after the cumulative effects of her treatments were wearing her down. The salon is as far to the north end of the facility as the cancer center is to the south end of the facility. It just was not convenient or easy to get there when she was feeling tired and or just wanting to get back home to a comfortable chair. Certainly, we could have used a wheelchair but the motivation wasn’t there.
When we were at the first cancer center for the consultative appointments, we met a navigator. She was very friendly, found us during our second appointment of the day and shared a number of important pieces of information with us. One important piece of information that stood out was overnight accommodations that would be available to Mom since she would likely be doing five-day-a-week treatments. Their cancer center had a Ronald McDonald-type home for cancer patients to stay for a small nightly or weekly fee. So does the cancer center she received treatment at, but we never heard a word about it – except from another patient who was going through radiation treatments at the same time. She stayed there and rode a shuttle between the house and the clinic each morning. I can make an assumption that we weren’t given information about this option because it was known Mom would be staying with my family. However, it still seems like an opportunity that should have been shared.
Communication is, again, key
The common denominator between all of these amenities is communication. If the communication would have been there, in some manner, each experience would have been incrementally better. Patients and families would have known there were more convenient dining options. We would have gone to the correct pharmacy. Mom might have found a wig she liked rather than relying on donated hats available in the infusion suite. And maybe another family who could benefit from lodging close to the clinic would have taken advantage of the opportunity.
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