Whether a loved one is hospitalized for a planned procedure or an unexpected medical crisis, you may be left feeling vulnerable and helpless. You’re fully trusting the trained medical professionals to meet all of your loved one’s needs during their hospital stay and to know just what to do to help keep them feeling comfortable. Yet as a family caregiver, you have a huge role to play: as an advocate for your loved one.
Prior to a need arising, it’s an excellent idea to have a plan in place for how to best provide the support and advocacy the person will require. These suggestions can help.
How Can I Best Advocate for a Loved One During a Hospital Stay?
- Watch for hospital-induced delirium. This is an alarmingly common issue that can occur for many different reasons. In certain instances, medications such as narcotics and anti-anxiety meds cause delirium. Another possible culprit is lack of sleep from the bright lights, noises, and ongoing monitoring throughout the night. To help, keep the door closed whenever possible to minimize hallway noise and ask for the lights to be turned down as low as possible during the night. Visit the person whenever you can to watch for signs and symptoms of delirium. Your presence will provide a familiar face to help ground them while in an unfamiliar environment.
- Offer interesting activities. Provide a welcome distraction from the stress of being in the hospital by playing quiet music they enjoy, reading a book aloud, staying with them at mealtime, or watching a movie together. Make sure they are updated on family news to help them feel plugged into the rest of the world. And it’s really true that laughter can be the best medicine! Find opportunities to share humor together if appropriate and welcomed by the person.
- Enhance comfort. Make the sterile hospital environment feel a little more like home by bringing in a favorite blanket or pillow, a robe or sweater, a novel they have been reading, and their favored personal hygiene products: lip balm, shampoo, lotion, soap, etc. You may also want to bring a family photo or other memento to set up on the bedside table. Be sure to leave anything of value at home.
- Make post-hospitalization arrangements. The right time to make a plan for discharge from the hospital is while the individual is still hospitalized – or preferably, even before a planned hospital stay. There are certain steps to take to ensure the home will be prepared for the individual’s return. An in-home caregiver should be a key part of a loved one’s post-hospitalization strategy, in order to prevent a rehospitalization and to make sure the person recovers comfortably.
- Trips to the grocery store to make sure there are plenty of healthy foods in the home
- Cooking meals according to any prescribed dietary plan
- Picking up prescriptions and providing medication reminders
- Checking for changes in condition and reporting them right away
- Providing support during transfers and walking to decrease the possibility of a fall
- And more