When a loved one is in the hospital recovering from a medical procedure, it can be a stressful and scary time for not just the patient, but also that patient’s caregiver. Whether you are the family member of the patient or a friend or loved one of someone who’s at the hospital caring for and visiting the patient, there are many things you can do to provide comfort during this difficult time.
Comfort for the patient:
- Bring reading material. Since patients may be too distracted to fully focus on a book’s storyline, bring along some magazines for lighter, quicker reading.
- Laughter is the best medicine. If you have a portable DVD player or laptop computer, or if there’s a DVD player in the patient’s room, bring a favorite comedy or film to watch together.
- “Go fish”…or be at “war.” Bringing a deck of cards for playing card games is an inexpensive, easy way to entertain patients of all ages. Board games or crossword puzzles can be fun entertainment, too.
- Uninterrupted zzzzz’s. Speak to the doctor or hospital staff to see if it’s possible for them to avoid taking vitals in the middle of the night so that the patient can get a full night’s sleep.
- Familiarity is comforting. Ask hospital staff if you can bring the patient’s favorite pillow or sleep attire for them to use.
- Bring a personal touch. Would it comfort the patient to have a photograph of their beloved children, spouse, or pet by their bedside? What about a favorite stuffed animal or other small memento? If so, bring one to their room.
- Call ahead. Some patients would feel self-conscious if they weren’t able to take a few minutes for grooming before you arrive. Don’t surprise them with a visit–call ahead so that if they wish to make themselves look a bit more presentable for company, they have a little time to do so.
- The power of touch. As long as these are not areas affected by the patient’s recent procedures, offer a hand, foot, shoulder or scalp massage to relieve a little tension.
- Take notes. The patient may be too sleepy or worried to fully pay attention to medical advice and instructions given by doctors and hospital staff. Bring along a notebook and pen so that you can record this information for the patient. Also take notes on what types of treatment the patient has undergone and what medications they’ve received; this will be helpful when the patient examines their bill later to make sure they’re being billed only for what they received during their hospital stay.
- Help outside the hospital. Do the patient’s plants need to be watered, their newspaper brought in,their trash taken out, et cetera? Offering to help with these small tasks can ease pressure on the patient once they’re out of the hospital.
- Make them look good and feel good. Bring the patient’s favorite shampoo/conditioner, body wash, hand lotion, bath robe, lip balms, and other personal care items that they enjoy using.
Comfort for the caregiver:
- Give ’em a break. Caregiving can be stressful. Offer to come hang out with the patient for a little while, giving the caregiver time to go home for a while, take a nap, etc.
- Bring something yummy. Chances are, if the caregiver has been cooped up in the hospital with the patient, they’ve been eating nothing but hospital food. Bring takeout from the caregiver’s favorite restaurant, or bring a healthy homemade soup, as a gesture of thanks.
- Run errands. If you aren’t able to be in the hospital with or in place of the caregiver, are there any errands they have that you could take care of–bringing in the mail, dropping off the dry cleaning, walking the dog, etc?
Although the gestures listed above are small and simple, there’s no doubt that they will be much appreciated by recovering patients and weary caregivers.