Do’s and Don’ts for Hospitalization Support
overflowing laundry basket

My family has reached the “expert” level when it comes to handling major hospitalizations. Each time a crisis hits, I hear the well-meant refrain from kindhearted folks who simply say, “Call me if there is anything I can do.”

Face it. I am not going to call.

It’s not that I don’t need assistance. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the offer. It’s just that it is too burdensome to pick up the phone sometimes.

It’s daunting to try to remember precisely who casually said, “Call me.” And I hate to inconvenience people. Everyone is busy, after all, with their own obligations. Besides, it takes precious time to call around. I am certain I am not alone in thinking this way.

Here are some simple, practical suggestions that may help YOU as you help others in a crisis mode.

  • Instead of saying, “Call me if I can do anything,” identify a need and just do it. It is better to say, “I can pick Joey up at school on Tuesday and bring him to practice,” instead of “Call me if you need anything.” Be specific in your offer to help. What are you willing to do? When?
  • Fresh fruit, cold cuts, bread, milk, paper plates and bowls are all things that will be appreciated by family that’s commuting back and forth to the hospital or who has someone home recovering. Caseroles or meals that can be reheated are appreciated. If you don’t have time to cook for your friends, order a pizza to be delivered to their house at a time you know they are home.
  • Patients discharged from the hospital often need prescriptions picked up or medical equipment (such as a shower chair) and it is difficult for the caregiver to get out to obtain them. Offer to stop at the pharmacy or to sit with the patient so the caregiver can do it.
  • Does your friend have pets? Pick up some animal food. If you are comfortable doing so, offer to stop by the house to walk the dog while your friend is inpatient and continue to do so, if possible, immediately following discharge.
  • Laundry tends to pile up. As someone who has had to buy new underwear during a family member’s hospitalization I can attest to that! Spend an afternoon at your friend’s home and wash some clothes. Or, bring it home to your house and return it the next day or so.
  • Do you like yard work? Mow, rake, pull weeds (whatever needs doing.)
  • Is it the time of year to tune up a snow blower? Cover a pool? Put in or take out air conditioners? Move the patio furniture? Chances are these tasks will get overlooked during a hospitalization or recovery period, as will other home maintenance jobs.
  • Remember that commuting to the hospital (gas), parking garages and cafeteria meals are unexpected expenses that most do not budget for. (Some hospitals have fees for TV service for the patient. I once paid $8 per day so Larry could have TV and a phone in his room. And he was there for 3 weeks.) A small gift to offset these costs will be most appreciated.
  • When you go to visit, look around you. Are there dishes in the sink? A litter box? Trash that needs to go out? Take the initiative and put the coffee pot (or tea kettle!) on and tell your caregiver friend to sit. Then, over his/her objection, get the dishes into the dishwasher, empty the trash, etc, all the while lending an ear to your friend. Or, encourage the caregiver to take a nap. Chances are, he or she has been going full tilt since the incident began and can really use the rest.
  • Keep visits short as the patient and the family are often tired following a major illness or surgery. Pain medications can make the patient sleepy. Respect the need for the patient to rest.
  • PrayWith your friend, not just for your friend.

 

It is INCREDIBLY HARD to ask for help. It is humbling. Most are too proud to admit there is a need. Or, like me, they don’t want to bother anyone.

If you do help someone out, DO NOT mention how busy you are. It will only make your friend feel guilty for taking you away from your obligations.

I really miss my Mom. She would help to keep the home fires burning during a crisis. She’d make me a cup of tea, put food on the table despite my insistence that I couldn’t eat (and I always managed to eat what she served!), she’d fold the laundry, do the dishes, encourage me to take a nap, listen when I just needed to vent, etc. Her support was invaluable.

You, too, can be invaluable to your family or friends who are faced with a challenge such as a major illness. Remember, there is a good chance you might need someone to help you out some day. Let’s all try to help one another.

By Valerie D’Apice

Written by Guest Author
The Caregiver Space accepts contributions from experts for The Caregiver's Toolbox and provides a platform for all caregivers in Caregiver Stories. Please read our author guidelines for more information and use our contact form to submit guest articles.

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8 Comments

  1. When bringing food, be aware of any food allergies that the caregiver or patient may have. A lot of the foods mentioned here are “poison” to some of us. Although I know most would love a pizza delivered to the door, I would be freaking out trying to figure out how to get rid of it without coming in contact with it, since anything with gluten will make me incredibly sick.

    Reply
  2. Great tips for any caregiving situation whether in hospital or home!

    Reply
  3. So true…i have been in this position

    Reply
  4. I would say offer to give the room at home of the patient a good thorough cleaning… windows, drapes, carpet, etc. while the patient was in the hospital.

    Reply
  5. Spot on! I would also add, bring a meal to the hospital for the family member(s) staying there with the patient. Our local hospital will not allow family members to order food from the food service to be delivered with the patient’s good. My mother stayed with my dad but is disabled and couldn’t get down to the cafeteria without assistance. I was held up and couldn’t get her anything until later that evening and she almost passed out.

    Reply
    • A bag of healthy snacks to keep in the room is a good option too.
      Protein and carbs.
      Crackers and cheeses packages, nuts or nut butters, trail mix, beef jerky, a couple of chocolate items. And bottled water.

      Reply
    • Ive had several family members in rhe hospital for an extended amount of time. We had a basket with peanut butter crackers and other snacks in the room. It always helped when someone would bring us food from outside the hospital too!

      Reply

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