Friday, February 9, 2018

15 Tips - When A Loved One Is In the Hospital

by Angie Ouellette-Tower for http://www.godsgrowinggarden.com/ photo BlogHospital_zps9pd0a3f1.jpg


15 Tips/Reminders: When a Loved One is in the Hospital


I have visited many loved ones while in the hospital over the years.  It started as a child when we lived with my grandfather for a year to help take care of him.  Little did I know that God was actually training me for future caregiving.  My husband and I have lived with his parents (my in-laws) for the past 8 years in order to care for them.  I am not bragging but consider it a privilege to care for my family
(please click HERE to read: "Taking Care of Your Family).
If you have not ever had a loved one in the hospital then this next statement is going to sound ridiculous:  "going to the hospital day after day to visit a loved one is exhausting."  It's true.  I have learned many important lessons the hard way - below is a list of tips that will help you through this difficult type of situation (by "situation" I mean having a hospitalized loved one).



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During the first lengthy hospital stay (by lengthy I mean that my loved one remained in the hospital for 3 days or more), I was noticing that by the end of each day I had the most excruciating headache (we spent hours each day visiting).  It wasn't until days later that I realized that I was barely drinking any water.  Now I make sure that I pack plenty of drinking water and almost never go home with a headache.

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Of course this will vary by patient but start with the basics: hair brush, tooth brush, underwear, makeup etc.  Then move on to items that will help pass the time like: daily devotion book, other books, portable DVD player, crossword booklet etc.  You might also want to bring items that will help you pass the time while visiting (book, games etc)

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While you are visiting your loved one you will need to eat.  I know that many times (depending on the severity of your loved one's illness), you will simply not feel like eating but you must!  What happens when you become too weak to care for your loved one?  Keep yourself nourished for the sake of your loved one.

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Here again, every situation is different but you never know who you might need to call.  Bring extended family member's phone numbers.  Bring previous doctors numbers.  Bring your boss's contact information because you never know how long you might have to stay or how many days you might have to be gone from the office.
Just as important is remember to write down the nurses station number in case you need to call to receive updates during the night or on days when you are unable to visit.  Also, if there is a phone by your loved one's bed, then always remember to write down that extension so that you will be able to call them once you are home.

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This is a difficult subject that almost no one ever wants to think about let alone put down on paper.  For those of you who are not familiar with a "Living Will" it is: "a written statement detailing a person's desires regarding their medical treatment in circumstances in which they are no longer able to express informed consent, especially an advance directive."  It's a difficult topic but a necessary one in these types of situations.

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You might think that this would be a "no brainer", but you will become so consumed with trying to remember everything else that checking your gas tank before you go to the hospital will be the last thing to cross your mind.  Remember to fill up or bring enough money for a taxi or whatever other forms of transportation that you might rely on in your area.

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Most hospitals today have a hand sanitizer at every patient's doorway but you can never be too careful.  With super bugs/ infections like "MRSA" or "Staph", you must protect your loved one in the hospital as well as yourself and the other loved ones at home.  Bring disinfectant hand wipes or a travel size sanitizer lotion just in case.

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This is another tip that will sound strange - "relax and breath."  On one of the many situations visiting a loved one I noticed that I was so stressed that I was taking shallow breaths, almost holding my breath and tensing my shoulders!  This eventually threw my neck out (I have that type of a back where this can happen often).  Now I remind myself to relax my muscles and breath slowly and deeply.

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It is very likely that your loved one will be seeing many different doctors/specialists during his/her time as an inpatient.  If you are able to be there when that doctor is examining your loved one then great!  However, usually these doctors do their rounds before public visiting hours.  That's why you need to make a list of questions and the most important part is to write these questions down WHEN YOU THINK OF THEM.  I can't tell you how many times I have said: "we forgot to ask that doctor this or that!!" after they have seen the patient.  So, write down your questions and give that list to the nurse on duty (if you are unable to be present during the doctor visit).  Sometimes the nurse will be able to answer a few of your questions.

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This also should be obvious but I suggest always having a backup plan.  You might not know exactly how long you will be required to stay at the hospital (especially if there is some urgent occurrence with your inpatient loved one).  Maybe you have a friend or distant relative who lives close and they could always be on standby for these types of situations.
Also, expect messes.  We have not been blessed with children but we usually have one dog and one cat at a time.  Our animal family members can sense when something is wrong.  Our animal children might be nervous and have accidents - try to stay calm and just clean up these messes.

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I have to admit that I had forgotten about my bills during the first time that I had a loved one in the hospital for an extended period of time.  Late fees had to be paid (which was a first for me - I always pay my bills on time).  You don't want to come home from the hospital one day to find out that the electricity has been turned off! (this might not even affect you if you pay your bills online - I'm still old school and pay through snail mail)

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Many people are so proud that they refuse to accept help from others - this attitude is stupid.  Your situation is just too much to bear alone!  Accept help from neighbors or family members - whether it's bringing a meal over or offering to stay with your children.  Accept advice and counseling from your pastor &/or hospital chaplain.  Accept aid from the hospital social workers.  Don't be an island!

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One instance stands out in my memory.  Just last year my mom was in the hospital for major surgery and during her stay they had put an "infectious" status on her room.  We had to put gloves, a gown and a mask on whenever we visited her.  The reason for this "costume" was because they said that she had had a history of MRSA infection.  We all said "no - she has NEVER had MRSA!"  They kept responding with "yes, it's here in her file."  This continued until finally one nurse noticed that there was one misplaced page in my mom's file - this page was from a different patient who happened to have the same surname!!!  If we had not spoken up persistently, then that misplaced infection might still be following her through the medical files.  So speak up when something doesn't seem right, but be patient while doing so. 

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Your home life will most likely change once your loved one returns home (this of course depends on the type and severity of their illness).  There will be many times when you will have to make changes at home.  Maybe there will be mobility issues and you might have to have a walk-in tub installed in your bathroom or maybe a stair lift.  There might be dietary changes.  And most likely there will be many new specialists that you will have to see on a regular basis which requires a permanent schedule change.  Be prepared to make changes.

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Finally, please make sure to thank the staff.  "Staff" includes everyone from doctors, nurses, office workers, cafeteria employees and custodial staff.  Many of these jobs are very difficult and most of the time family members are so distraught about their loved one's situation that they are impatient and even mean towards the hospital staff.  Instead, be thankful.  
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2 comments:

  1. Angie, these are wise suggestions. Some that I believe are especially important are: having and sharing your living will or advance directive. The hospital staff must have a copy of it to confirm they are following your wishes. Yes, write down questions and write down the answers. Speak up respectfully about anything you don't understand or agree with; rudeness or abuse of staff is never acceptable. When planning ahead for discharge, make sure the hospital gives you written instructions on what to do and what to watch for at home, orders for medications and equipment and follow up appointments. And definitely thank the healthcare professionals for their work. Sure, they are getting paid, but they appreciate words of thanks also. Thank you for sharing your insights.

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