Unplanned and even planned hospital stays for surgery, can be a scary time for anyone. Some, just assume those with a chronic illness, are well accustomed to hospital stays. It is true, they may visit the hospital more than the average person, but being comfortable there – is usually quite the opposite. In your friends brain, and struggling body they may be panicking that they are so ill, whether this hospital visit will be their last.
I know, that feeling all to well.
Recently, a severe kidney infection meant I had to spend a week in hospital, until I was stable enough to go onto oral antibiotics. The inpatient stay has inspired me to share 15 ways you can support your chronically ill friend in hospital. Although, I hope many of these tips can be applied to support anyone, that is in hospital.
1.Ask before visiting
It is important to ask before visiting the hospital because some wards have strict set visiting hours. It may be possible to visit your friends out of these hours in a day room, dependant on their mobility. If your friend is in an Accident & Emergency assessment unit, visiting hours are anytime. However, it is still worth checking as your friend, may not be fit enough to entertain a visitor.
2. Ask if they need anything from home
If your chronically ill friends hospital stay is unplanned, they may be missing items they value from home. Hospitals tend to have towels, toothpaste, toothbrushes and slippers but your friend still may want entertainment like books, mobile phone / tablet, clean clothes, a dressing gown, orthopaedic pillow and comfort food.
3. Bring them a card or gift
You can put a huge smile on your friends face, by getting them a small gift or card to show you are thinking of them. When you think of hospital gifts fresh fruit and flowers, may instantly come to mind. However, be careful as many wards do not allow flowers in patient or clinical areas, due to infection control.
Fruit is typically allowed, but think twice about buying huge hampers because;
A) Your friend may not be able to eat it
B) Hampers take up precious table space
C) Other visitors may eat the fruit, which makes the staff think your friend is eating more – than they actually are.
Other hospital gift ideas that don’t break the bank are: a pair of earplugs, to block out the noise, a face mask to relax, magazines to pass the time and fluffy socks to keep their feet well insulated.
4. Offer to take them from a walk
Offering to take your friend for a walk around or outside the hospital can mean the world to them. A walk can help the patient sleep, get their bowels moving and a nice break from staring at the same four walls in the ward. Due to safety reasons, patients are not easily allowed to go for a walk, unless accompanied by a nurse. In theory, this works fine but nurses all normally very busy and may not have time in their schedule to do this.
5. Give them a call or text
Being on a ward, for days or ends can become extremely lonely. Your chronically ill friend may be around other patients but these people are also very poorly, and will not be able to make conversation all the time. By giving your friend a call or a text, they will know you are there and care about them. Especially, if you can’t take time out to go and visit them. If your friend is not fit enough to check-in with, then you should respect the family’s wishes to let them update you on their progress.
6. Respect your friends privacy
If your friend or their family hasn’t put anything on social media, why they are in hospital – then simply you shouldn’t.
7.Avoid giving medical advice
If you are not medically trained, avoid giving medical advice on the reasons why your chronically ill friend has landed up in hospital. The reasons for this are, you might panic them and they just want a short-term distractions.
8. Let them talk as much as they can
Being bed bound nearly 24.7 can be very isolating. By letting your friend talk as much as they can you can try to address any of their worries, and try to cheer them up.
9. Ask if they need anything, when they leave hospital
Unfortunately, when many people leave hospital they are not magically better. It could be a long time until your chronically ill friend returns back to work, or a school run as recovery can be a long progress. By asking them if there is anything they need when they leave hospital, you can help them plan for the recovery process.
10. Try not to get too emotional
I know this one can be extremely difficult and is dependant on the situation. However, if you show a lot of emotion and visibly become upset why your friend is in hospital, this could stress them out more.
11. Be respectful of surrounding patients
Many patients do not get the benefit of their own room. Other people will respect you if you try not to be too noisy. If your friend is in a bay as other patients may have visitors, resting or trying to sleep. If you and your friend want more privacy, you sit in the day room, or pull the curtains surrounding their bed.
12. Be polite to the medical staff
It can be a very stressful time seeing your friend in pain, and wanting to know updates on their progress. Doctors and nurses have many patients to see and might not always be around but try to have patience and be polite to them when they do. After all they are working hard to get your chronically ill friend back in the comfort of their own home.
13. Ask if they want you to help with self-care
Although, nurses have seen it all and are use to helping patients with self-care it can be very intrusive. If you and your friend are close, asking if they need help washing, getting dressed or undressed, sitting up, or hair brushed can help boost their mood.
14. Start an online fundraiser
If your chronically ill friend needs life saving surgery that is not covered for by medical health care, starting an online fundraiser could save their life. It may be wise, to keep this a secret from your friend to begin with, if you don’t know how much you will raise – to avoid getting their hopes up.
15. Don’t stay too long visiting
What is considered too long, will vary from patient to patient. However, by asking or gauging how tired your friend is will help determine how long you should stay at the hospital. If your friend is in the early stages of recovery, 15-20 minutes is typically long enough. If another family or friend shows up, this may also be a good time to leave – but remember you can come back.
Sharing is Caring
I would love if you shared this post on hospital etiquette, to help people support their friend in hospital.
Have your Say
Which of these hospital tips did you find the most useful?
Can you think of anymore I have missed?
If so – I would love to hear your comments below.
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External Further Resources
How to Really Help a Sick Friend
What to Say When you Visit Someone in Hospital
Discover Chronic Illness Awareness Gifts
Lets raise awareness of chronic illness together. View my handmade chronic illness awareness gifts at ChronicCreationsGB. A portion of the proceeds from each sale are donated to Ehlers Danlos U.K.
These are very good tips for those who want to be good friends but don’t know how.
Thanks Richard 🙂