I know having a loved one in hospital or unwell can be rather distressing, and I know more than anything just how much you want to help them get better.
I myself, have spent a lot of time in hospital and after a recent surgery with a hospital stay I thought that I might give you some ideas or suggestions on how you can support a loved one while they're in hospital. I guess these could even apply to when a loved one is at home chronically ill or unwell.
When a loved one is sick, you don't have to buy flowers to show them you support them. Here are some ideas to help you next time:
Suggestion #1. Calling them
I know that you're concerned for them and want to call them daily or every other day for updates but as much as I know you care and want to support me this actually is something that I find frustrating.
You see you might call me once a day, but so are a lot of other people all asking the same questions so I feel like I am constantly repeating myself and all the phone calls can become rather exhausting after a while, or you might just be having an 'off' day and just want to be left alone.
Also keeping in mind that when someone is in a hospital room sharing with 4 other people it can be hard to have an actual conversation without feeling like everyone in the room is listening... there just isn't privacy when you're in hospital and this makes me uncomfortable so I prefer to text or facebook message.
#1. Nominate one family member to call and relay the message back to those who are asking. Or if too many are upset they're not getting a turn to speak to the person in hospital create some sort of roster and take in turns of calling and relaying the message to others.
#2. Send a text message before calling and ask if now is an ok time to talk, as they might be asleep or might not be up for a chat. If they don't answer straight away then they aren't available, but they can reply when they are.
#3. Send texts instead of calling as it can be easier to reply to when they're up to it or as I mentioned above I prefer text is just more private than having a conversation in such a public room.
Suggestion #2. Flowers
I know when you're visiting or thinking of a loved one your first instinct is to buy them flowers. But flowers while they are beautiful and can make someone feel loved and smile, they also are rather expensive and will die.
Instead of buying flowers think of practical things they might need and either are unable to go buy it themselves while they are in hospital or they mightn't have the funds to purchase (especially as money can be tight when in hospital and if they have to take time off work to be there).
#1. If they have a laptop and are using a prepaid wireless dongle, purchase some credit or recharge for them to use
#2. If they have an iPad and enjoy reading books purchase an iTunes gift card so they can get some new books to read
#3. Make up a little care package with some comfy slippers and essential toiletries if they were in a rush and didn't get to pack these even include an eye mask and ear plugs to help them sleep a bit better
#4. If you know that they've been colouring in to keep them occupied you could buy a nice set of pencils or colouring in book in case they have used up all their book or pencils
#5. If you drive past their house and notice their lawns are looking a little neglected offer to give it a mow, or keep an eye on their pets it can be a stress they don't need to worry about
Suggestion #3. Food
Unless you're in a nice private hospital, the food in most public hospitals I have been in can at times be rather inedible leaving you rather hungry and annoyed.
I spent so much money this last admission on food as I found myself having to resort to the hospital's expensive cafe in order to get something that was half decent to eat. But sometimes you don't have the option to walk to the cafe to get food.
#1. Offer to bring in a nice home cooked meal for them to enjoy
#2. If there is a cafe but they're unable to walk there themselves offer to go get them something enjoyable
#3. Pick up or arrange delivery of some yummy take away and sit somewhere in the hospital and have a meal and chat
Suggestion #4. Make them feel at home/comfortable
When I am in hospital for long periods of time I quickly become homesick especially when home is so far away. For me I have some things with me that makes me feel comfortable and a bit at home which are some cushions/cuddle pillows (I can't sleep without cuddling up to these cushions) and also have my Redkite blanket with me.
These are some things that I find brings me comfort but others might find comfort in having a photo on their bedside of their family.
A reader suggested after reading this post, that if they have pets it can help with their recovery and feeling more at home if you brought their pets in for a visit. There might be a garden or somewhere close by that you can sit at, and if you can't walk far you might be able to be wheeled out in a wheelchair. She went on to say a visit from her fur babies really helped her in her recovery.
Suggestion #5. Respect their privacy
When you're in hospital you can feel vulnerable and often feel like you have lost dignity. But when you are visiting a loved one it is important to be mindful and respectful of how they might be feeling and to not make them feel worse.
Don't take a photo of them without their consent, and especially don't go posting that photo on social media.
Another thing you shouldn't do is share things they have told you in private or that the doctors may have said without their permission, this goes for social media. I know that your first instinct is that you want to update people on their condition but don't give out the specific and private details of the ordeal, not everyone needs to know the specifics. And if they share an image with you, don't text/send that image out to your contacts. It can be rather upsetting when they find out to know that things about their life/recovery have been shared without their permission.
Suggestion #6. Offer to do their laundry
If you are really wanting to offer support and help while they are in hospital, offering to wash their dirty clothes can be a huge help. But you need to be prepared that some of those articles of clothing might be dirty or soiled. It might be embarrassing for the patient to accept you washing their clothes especially their delicates, and it is important that you make them feel comfortable and not embarrassed about the state of their clothes, as they might be a little anxious about handing over their PJ pants that became soiled after a bag leak.
If you do end up washing their clothes, and if their clothes are rather dirty and soiled or stained, it is not your place to tell others in a gossip sort of way as it would be humiliating and tarnish any chances of the person asking/accepting help again.
While these are just a few suggestions I know the list could be longer. So if you have a suggestion that you think would help others comment below and let me know. I would love to hear your ideas of what makes you feel more supported when in hospital.