Visiting a loved one or friend in the hospital can serve a few purposes. For the caregiver, it can be a way to advocate. It can also be a social visit which can lift the spirits of the patient or the caregiver staying with the patient.
My time in the hospital with Robert wasn’t so much of a visit with him as it was me being there to advocate on his behalf. (Since Robert was sick, he was sleeping most of the time and probably didn’t even realize I was there).
For me, it was important to be there at every shift change so I knew the doctors and nurses taking care of Robert. I made sure they understood the importance of not changing the time of his seizure medication schedule because of the increased risk of seizures and made sure there weren’t any surprises such as taking him off of his seizure medication (which the ER doctors wanted to do before I insisted they speak to his neurologist first).
If I couldn’t be there because I had to run into work for a bit, my husband took over for me.
Aside from confirming the medication schedule with each shift until the nurses and I knew each other, I also kept track of the vitals whenever they were taken which no one seemed to mind. In fact, on Day 3 of Robert’s stay, the doctors were talking about releasing him since he hadn’t been running a fever. They were very happy Robert was doing so well but my notes said he was running a fever the previous evening. I hated to burst their bubble but, after reviewing my notes, they agreed to keep him longer. (The nurse had an extremely busy shift the night before and had neglected to note a fever in Robert’s chart).
I also had to be there because Robert is a terrible self-reporter. He says he’s doing “fine” or “excellent” even if he is unable to sit up unassisted (which isn’t normal) or is running a fever or has just fallen from a seizure.
He’s either extremely optimistic or a master at denial. (Maybe a little of both.)
He is also cognitively slow with a memory impairment so it is unrealistic to think he can fend for himself when doctors are asking questions or giving him information. As his caregiver, I can also recognize what is “normal” for him and what isn’t and convey that information to the staff. Relying on Robert to give the doctors and nurses information about his condition is irresponsible and would be detrimental to his health.
Many caregivers are in the same situation when their caree is hospitalized because their loved one is too sick to be able to fend for themselves. However, it’s not always possible to be at the hospital all day long (people work, have children to tend to, have other caregiving responsibilities or their own health concerns).
One solution may be to ask a family member or friends to visit at a time when you can’t be there. The suggestion may even be welcomed – people do love to help but often don’t know how! It can be difficult to ask for help but it can cut down on miscommunication if someone is with the patient when vitals are taken or when the doctors do their rounds.
Another way to help is to think of the visit to the hospital as a visit to the caregiver. Most likely, they are stressed out, in need of a sounding board or some company. I am extremely grateful to my husband and daughter who spent many hours with me in the emergency room and at the hospital with Robert. We got to know the best foods to get from the cafeteria if we were in a rush and were able to sample just about every dessert they had available (you don’t think I’d let a hospital stay keep me from chocolate, do you?).
If I had any doubt about whether or not spending so much time at the hospital was a good idea, his doctor told me on the day of discharge how much he appreciated my involvement and my advocacy for Robert (this is the same doctor who I had disagreed with earlier in the week when he was throwing out theories about Robert’s cognitive decline).
Hopefully, Robert will stay out of the hospital for a while but if he does have to go in again, you can find me either in his room talking to doctors and nurses, taking notes or sneaking off to grab a surprisingly delicious brownie.
Since there isn't a "one size fits all" formula for hospital visits, I'd like to know what your view is of hospital visits. If you’ve been in the hospital, do you want people there all the time or do you prefer some peace and quiet? If you’re a caregiver, do you want someone to give you a break or to take shifts in talking to the doctors?
Or do you just visit for the brownies?