“You’ll never have to go into the hospital unless you break a bone or have another baby!.” This was a promise nurse anesthetist Margaret Fitzpatrick made to her mother Alma. At the time, Alma was 90 years old, and the promise – made by the youngest of the matriarch’s 16 children – put a light spin on a serious subject. Mom did not want to spend the last years of her life at doctor’s appointments or in hospitals, and, as a medical professional, her daughter knows first-hand that health care decisions are not one-size-fits-all.
In her new book, “Getting the Best Care: Rescuing Your Loved One from the HealthCare Conveyor Belt,” Fitzpatrick provides resources for better understanding treatment options and making informed medical decisions that can help patients and their families navigate the healthcare landscape at all stages of life. In a one-hour presentation Tues., Feb. 26, 10:30 a.m. at Smith Village Community Hall, 2320 W. 113th Pl., Fitzpatrick will share information based on her 20 years of professional experience as well patient stories that can illustrate how caregivers and patients can become better advocates.
Fitzpatrick grew up in Beverly/Morgan Park and attended Sutherland School. She worked as a critical care nurse at Northwestern Memorial Hospital then Christ Hospital before earning her masters and becoming a nurse anesthetist 10 years ago.
“Since I got my masters, I’ve seen so much suffering in hospitals,” Fitzpatrick said. It was the experiences of her patients who were older or dealing with multiple medical problems – the people who she said were on the “healthcare conveyor belt” of excessive treatments and prescriptions — that compelled Fitzpatrick to write her book
“Everybody wants to feel that they are taking care of a person,” Fitzpatrick said. Unfortunately, more is not necessarily better for many older patients, according to Fitzpatrick. Knowing what questions to ask, what kinds of outcomes can you expect from routinely provided treatments and what you need to know before you’re in the throes of a medical emergency can help people make choices that align with their medical wishes.
In her book, Fitzpatrick provides practical information on topics like setting health care goals, special considerations for advocating for people with dementia, how to maintain autonomy over your health care and how to start the conversation on end-of-life decisions with your family.
In each chapter, the author uses true stories of patients to illustrate how decisions affect health outcomes.
Fitzpatrick’s first book, “What to Ask the Doc: The Questions to Ask to Get the Answers You Need,” was released in 2004 and co-authored with two other nurses. The book achieved some success, including a television interview with Katie Couric on the Today Show.
“Getting the Best Care. Rescuing Your Loved One from the HealthCare Conveyor Belt,” will be released through Amazon this month. Info and excerpts, as well as a chance to win a free copy or purchase the book, are available at gettingthebestcare.com. Advance copies will also be given as door prizes at the Smith Village presentation.
The Beverly Area Planning Association (BAPA) is partnering with Smith Village to present Fitzpatrick’s talk. Admission is free, but reservations are requested by Fri., Feb. 22 at Smith Village, 773-474-7303. Complimentary valet parking will be available.