By Dr. Janet Brill
No matter the diagnosis or outlook, it’s important that you remain there for your loved one throughout the day to day. It’s hard to watch someone we love struggle with their health, but remaining strong for them will help you serve as a pillar of support when they most need it. They’re bound to be anxious and homesick, so follow these guidelines to make a difference and help them feel as good as possible given their current situation. Supportive friends and family make all the difference during recovery, and your support could be the inspiration that helps them work towards getting better.
The Little Chores
If you want to help out, consider the things that your loved one won’t be able to take care of while they’re in the hospital. Are they a parent? Make sure you take over as many duties as you can without overstepping; including, but not limited to, picking up the kids from school and taking them to music lessons or sports practices, packing healthy lunches or providing money for the little ones to buy hot lunch at school. Regardless of whether they have children or not, make sure their house is in mint condition when they finally do come home from the hospital. Head over to clean up and give the house a good scrubbing, especially if it’s vacant while they’re in the hospital. If other responsibilities make it impossible for you to clean yourself, you can also consider hiring a local cleaning service to make sure the house is prepared for their return.
Don’t Show Up Unannounced
If there’s one place surprises don’t belong, it’s a hospital, so do not show up unannounced and expect to be received with open arms. While it’s a sweet sentiment to want to spend time with your loved one in the hospital, not all individuals want to be seen in that setting. It may be that they don’t feel well enough to accept visitors, or it could be that they’re embarrassed for you to seem them in their situation (no matter how many times you assure them there’s nothing to be embarrassed about). In addition to their personal feelings, the hospital may have strict visiting rules and guidelines that you must abide by. Always check with your friend or family member before showing up, and accept it immediately if the answer is no. It’s a hard enough time without having to compound illness with feelings of guilt for turning visitors away.
Don’t Forget the Gifts
If you are going to the hospital, don’t show up emptyhanded without that sweet gift. By no means will your friend or family member be expecting a gift, but it’s a sweet gesture that will bring a smile to their face. Grab a personalized gift that will provide a bit of comfort in the hospital. Getting something customized shows you took more time than just picking out the overpriced, cliché items often available in hospital gift shops, and will hopefully serve as a pick-me-up on even the hardest of days. One thing to avoid is flowers; even though it’s probably the most common gift to find in a hospital room, it can also be the worst option. Why? They take up space, die quickly, and are hard to transport should your friend be moving rooms or heading home. Skip the flowers and stick to something they can appreciate for years to come.
Bring Home to the Hospital
If they’re going to be in the hospital for a long period of time, then you need to help them feel as at home as possible in a sterile hospital bed. Bring things from their home; usually fabrics like pillows and blankets will bring with them the smell of home, which can be extremely comforting to someone who has to be away for a while. You can also bring in art to hang on the walls (check with hospital staff to make sure this is allowed). Consider having your loved one’s children make some personal masterpieces that will be much more beloved and provide an extra kick of cheeriness in their hospital room.