Taking care of yourself when your loved one is hospitalized– what does that look like?
It takes energy and planning. It requires thinking. Maybe sitting still. All the things that seem counter-intuitive and counter-productive during a crises. Sitting still or resting feels like a luxury! But it is imperative for you and for your loved one that you take care of yourself. Here are a few ideas:
1. Accept help where it is offered. People want to help; they want to feel useful. USE it. You or someone else can set up a site like Caring Bridge. Caring Bridge lets you list tasks that need to be done so friends can sign up. It can update friends and family of progress and add photos so you don’t have to answer individual questions. You can ask for help with little things like feeding the cats, mowing the lawn, watering the plants. You don’t have to do it all. There are no medals in heaven for that.
2. As a caregiver, spouse or family member, SLEEP, REST! Get enough sleep for yourself! This isn’t optional. You are no help to anyone if you get sick. Try a 20 minute nap in the afternoon or after work. Go to bed earlier or have a relaxing cup of tea before bed to aid you in falling asleep. SCHEDULE sleep time in!
3. Eat! Have a sandwich or regular meal at least once a day. I kept granola bars with me at all times. Not the most healthy but available when I couldn’t get to the hospital restaurant or didn’t have time to make myself a sandwich. Perhaps a bagful of nuts in your handbag or car will help you. A friend of mine provided a meal for me every Wednesday. (Thanks Jim!) With leftovers, I had enough food for 2 days. Perhaps you can add providing a meal to your Caring Bridge site.
4. Limit the time you’ll make and receive calls and texts to whatever works for you. For example, 9am-9:00pm. Sometimes I was on the phone until 11:00 and I was always sorry in the morning!
And a few tips for both you and the patient:
5. Be an advocate and have the patient advocate for himself. Showing up regularly alerts the staff that the patient is being looked in on. Stopping by randomly gives you eyes on the facility, the staff and the patient. Is the patient being turned to prevent bed sores? Do the patient’s sheets need to be changed? Many times I came into my husband’s room and he had sweat through his sheets; they were soaked! I went to the linen room myself and got fresh sheets several times. I also alerted the staff so they could change the sheets asap. There are many patients for staff to take care of. Patient visits are scheduled and it could be hours before your patient is seen.
6. Bring candy to the staff. Leave a bucket of candy at the nurse’s station. Hand out candy bars to the aides with a smile on your face and a “thank you!” I kept a bag of chocolate handy just for these occasions. This simple gesture will go far. Yes, it’s their job to take care of the patient, but everyone wants to feel appreciated! You may need to ask for an extra task and having greased the wheel with sweets, they may respond better .
7. READ the rights and responsibilities of both staff and patient. It’s usually given at the beginning of the hospital stay. You’ll know what the hospital/staff is expected to do and you’ll know if they’re not doing it. You’ll also know the patient’s rights.
8. Someone recently told me they kept a notebook of information regarding the patient and used it every day. What a great idea! (Thank you Connie!) Keep all your information in one place: meds, doses, questions for the doctor, and answers from the doctor, information on the patient’s chart.
9. Also keep a list of all the medications the patient is on. You will be asked this question repeatedly. You can type up or write out a list and have multiple copies of it to give out. The meds may change and doctors will add or subtract from the list so the list needs to be updated.
My husband took many vitamins and we needed to track these as well because some interfered with medications.
You’ll also need a list of all allergies and surgeries that the patient has had. Again, keep it handy and updated.
This website has many forms that may be useful to you:
Having a loved one in the hospital is stressful on everyone. Taking care of yourself and being organized can help. When you’re rested you can handle what comes up a little better. And when all the information you need is at hand, it’s one less thing you have to worry about.
If you have other ideas, please share them with us!
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The Italian Grandmama