When a family member, friend, or colleague is admitted to the hospital, our initial reaction is to drop everything and go straight to him or her; but that’s often not the right course of action. A patient may be in a closed ward or simply not ready for visitors.
The primary objective is show you care and to be as supportive as possible. This begins with being sensitive to and respectful of the wishes of the patient. It’s usually best to wait until the patient or his/her immediate caregiver informs you that visitors are welcome and how you can best be of assistance.
If you are a member of the immediate family or a close personal friend, when the time is right, you may be able to assist with the patients in-hospital care.
If you are neither a member of the family or a close friend, or circumstances prevent you from b
eing on-site, there are several ways to help.
If the patient is an adult:
Find out what help is needed at home. The family would probably appreciate their fridge being filled and meals being made for them. Offer to take charge of organizing a meal train. Knowing that other members of the family are being fed can take a lot of pressure off of the patient, particularly if he or she is usually responsible for preparing meals.
Once the ‘green light’ is given for visits, organize a rotation of visitors so the patient is not overwhelmed or inadvertently left alone.
Organize rides to the hospital.
Arrange transportation to take children to/from school.
If it is a child who is sick or injured:
Offer to assist with non-hospital related tasks so both parents will have more time to spend at the hospital.
Organize transportation to help siblings get to/from school.
Organize afterschool care for any siblings. Before doing this, it is important to find out from the parents what the children know about the sibling’s illness or injury. You do not want to be in the position of giving over information and/or answering questions without knowing exactly what the parents want you to say.
Other ways to be supportive include:
Prepare food for the patient, as long as he/she is allowed to eat an unlimited diet and not one controlled by the medical staff. Providing a meal for the caregivers spending long hours at the hospital can also be very welcome.
Send or bring useful and comforting gifts. This could be a comfy blanket, a book of crossword puzzles, or even a set of personal care items to lift the spirits.
These are just a few suggestions for your consideration, but there are many other ways to show you care. The bottom-line: since the patient’s comfort is your top priority, ask him or her, a close family member or the patient’s caregiver for how you can best support and encourage a full and speedy recovery.