When a friend or family member is in the hospital
I haven’t updated my blog for the last 10 days because my husband’s appendix decided to rupture. That put him in the hospital for surgery and a week of IV antibiotics.
I took my own advice to not let a loved one be alone in the hospital, so I spent a lot of hours last week hanging out at his bedside.
Friends and family members called and texted, wanting to know what they could do, which was awesome because I was reeling from the shock of how abruptly a busy week could be turned upside down.
But after the first couple of days there wasn’t much to do but settle into the hospital and let the IV antibiotics do their job.
Keep hospital visits to a minimum
Of course my husband’s friends wanted to visit, but unfortunately he was too ill. I simply explained he wasn’t feeling up to visits, but enjoyed getting texts and emails. We definitely appreciated everyone thinking of us!
With few exceptions, most people are in the hospital because they are sick and need round-the-clock care. They may be in pain, or nauseated or just exhausted (hospitals are terrible places to get sleep).
During the day, nurses and nurses’ aides are busy checking vital signs, giving medications, changing IV bags and all the other minutiae of hospital life.
Physicians pop in at random times to give consults or talk about tests results.
Patients are frequently taken out of the room for imaging studies or other procedures.
In other words, the hospital is a busy place, and there are no longer any defined “visiting hours” for friends and family.
Follow these tips for a hospital visit
If you do visit someone in the hospital, or take a turn as the responsible adult watching over the hospitalized patient, here are a few tips to make the visit safer and more comfortable.
- Wash your hands. This has to be at the top of the list! Follow the best practices of healthcare workers and wash your hands before entering and after leaving a patient’s room. Hospitals have hand sanitizer dispensers everywhere, so find one and use it: Gel in, gel out. Hospitals are germy places; hand washing protects you, as well.
- Don’t come with a crowd. One or two visitors at a time is plenty, so don’t bring the whole family or all your co-workers. Take turns.
- Keep visits short. As I mentioned above, most patients are tired and feel lousy. Five or ten minutes is plenty of time to say hello.
- Keep your expectations low. Again, a tired and sick patient isn’t going to be overly chatty, and may not appreciate the effort it took for you to get to the hospital. It’s not that they don’t care; their minds and bodies are focused on getting well, not playing host or hostess.
- Don’t bring gifts. Unless you are specifically tasked with bringing an item, don’t bother. Hospital rooms are small, especially shared rooms, and flowers, books and magazines just add to the clutter.
- Don’t bring food or eat in the room. For a variety of reasons, patients are often not allowed to eat. Or they are too sick to eat. And sick people are very sensitive to smells and sounds. I made the mistake of bringing in some pad thai to eat for lunch and almost made my husband throw up. I quickly left the room and ate in the waiting room at the end of the hall instead. After that, when I needed a snack I made sure it didn’t have a strong odor and didn’t make noise. In other words, no barbeque potato chips 😉
I’m happy to report my husband is finally home and on the mend. Thank you to our friends and family—we appreciate you so much!