How can you help a loved one in hospital?
If someone you love is taken into hospital, whether for an emergency or a planned procedure, it is undoubtedly going to be immensely stressful for them. However, it will also put additional worry and responsibility on your doorstep as you will naturally want to go the extra mile to ensure they are comfortable at all costs and have everything that they need. To keep things ticking over nicely if you are caring for a loved one in hospital, read on to find out our handy advice…
Get a ‘second in command’
Naturally you are going to want to be at the hospital as much as possible to cater to your loved ones needs, but daily life will still continue in the outside world. You will need to prioritise which tasks really need to be finished, and which ones can be put off until a later date when you have more time. With regards to this, it is useful to nominate yourself a ‘second in command’ or a ‘partner in crime’ so to speak – someone who you can trust and work with to delegate certain jobs and responsibilities to. For example, if you are going with your loved one to the hospital, there may not have been time to pack a bag, which will need to be done and delivered. Also, financial details such as paying bills, or everyday tasks like watering plants will still need to be done so having someone you can hand that over to will be a complete weight off your mind. Your second in command may be doing a lot of legwork forward and backwards so you may want to choose someone who can drive.
You will obviously want your loved one to be as comfortable as possible while they are in hospital, so it is firstly worth asking the nurses on the ward if there are any do’s and don’ts regarding what you can bring in for the patient or not. For example, some intensive care units don’t allow mobile phones, but tablets with no data connection could be ok. This means you could pack it full of music, films and games for your loved one to watch and listen to if they feel like it, giving them something to do that isn’t dwelling on their condition or worrying. You may even want to consider popping a few family photos on there, in case your loved one feels lonely at any point.
In case your loved one isn’t permitted or strong enough to jump in the shower, grabbing some essential dry shampoo will help get rid of greasiness and boost the patients mood, although its worth double checking with the nurses first. You could also consider home comforts such as a favoured pillow, blanket or even toiletries as well as books and magazines if they will be in hospital for a longer period of time. Another aspect you could consider is whether you could bring in some home cooked meals but this would obviously need to be confirmed with hospital staff. Most important of all, be there for your loved one and listen to what they ask you. Do as they ask and they will feel supported and cared for.
Record what the doctor says
Ward rounds can be very confusing for patients, with different doctors talking about different aspects of their condition, sometimes with numerous visits in the course of one day. This is an awful lot of information to take in one hit and it can be hard to digest there and then when the doctor is in front of you. An idea is to ask the doctor politely whether you could record the conversation, either by video or just a voice recording. It’s worth explaining that you just want to be able to refer to the information later on so they fully understand why you want to record the conversation. Video however can be particularly helpful for physical therapist visits as they may have to demonstrate certain techniques. If the doctor requests that you don’t make any form of recording, go old school and make notes. Once you have some form of record you can check it later on in the day if you or your loved one has forgotten part of what was advised.
Keep a running log
If a family member is in hospital, relatives will usually visit in shifts so that everyone can have a break at some point. To avoid repetition and and to keep the next visitor up to speed on what has happened so far that day, a good idea is to keep a notepad on the bedside table which you can use as a diary to record daily activities. You can include the time, which will act as a useful reference for events such as meals and medications, and it will allow all visitors to be as up to date as possible.
Manage visitors and updates
Although it’s lovely that family and friends feel the need to flock to hospital during visiting hours, sometimes it is not always practical. If too many people turn up, they could get in the way, especially if only a certain number of people are allowed to visit at certain times. You should double check with your loved one who they would like to see and make sure the person in question knows, but other than that it is most likely best to keep non-essential visitors to a minimum. Most family will be very understanding and accommodating and allow you to orchestrate visiting as you see fit. An aspect of this however is ensuring that family and friends are kept updated. A tech savvy way to do this is using Whatsapp, and an advantage of using a mobile is that you can also send pictures which can lift the spirits. Another option would be to update your answering machine message, so that when people phoned you for an update, they just have to listen to the message and it saves you repeating yourself countless times. Some people have even created blogs to update relatives.