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Generally, your time in the hospital will be fairly short. You want to make the most of your time while you are there. It is a time to regain your equilibrium while you are there. I know, for some of you, a hospital is a place of terror. But you need to see it as a place to regain some of your equilibrium before returning home or you will not be prepared. Make sure you have a little notebook with you. A spiral notebook is fine! You don’t need anything fancy. Utilitarian is the name of the game.

Your mind is going to be swimming with questions. Keep a spiral notebook handy for your questions. Click To Tweet

Your mind is going to be swimming with questions. Some are important, some are full of fear and panic. Don’t try to edit them at first. As some get answered, others will get dropped from the list. Whenever they come to mind, just jot them down.

In the light of day, you can sort them out if you need to, but ask your questions. Often, the panicky ones are important. No one really expects you to be logical. I should say that the people you want to talk with won’t have that expectation. They understand that you are going through a very stressful time!

Make sure you have a notebook for your questions and the info you are receiving.

This notebook will also be a great place for you to put instructions and information that you are given. Paper clips and rubber bands will be useful for keeping things in your book. Most appointments won’t be given until discharge…on one sheet of paper.

Depending on the health needs of your loved one, you will be talking with therapists, specialty doctors, social workers possibly, a discharge planner, etc. Don’t hesitate to ask people who come to the room to identify themselves. If you didn’t catch their names, ask again. It’s ok. Often, they have a card. The hospital is THE most convenient place to ask questions so ask away. Just to be sure the person you ask is informed.

Make sure the person you are talking to is the right person to answer your question. Not every uniformed person is medically trained.

Obviously, you won’t ask the housekeeper about your care after leaving the hospital. But that brings up a point. Just because someone is wearing a uniform, doesn’t mean they have a lot of medical training. Med techs have minimal medical training so don’t count on them for information re a medical condition or care for that condition. Make sure the person you are asking for information is informed enough to give you the information you need.

Each patient has a person assigned to them for discharge planning. This begins when they are admitted, believe it or not. The titles vary, but they usually stop by the room during the first 24 hours after a patient is admitted and leave a card. They may be called a case manager or something similar. This is the person who sets you up with home health care, takes care of ordering equipment (if needed) for when you go home, and lining up your appointments before you are discharged. If you have any preferences for the companies you want for physical therapy, home health, etc., you need to make them known to this person. You are not making life any more complicated for them by making your preferences known. The earlier you do it, the better. That way, if there is some kind of problem with your request, they can get back to you quickly and not delay the discharge.

Don’t allow yourself to be intimidated by the person doing the scheduling to make you think you are inconveniencing them. They are there to help YOU, not the other way around. There may be times when your insurance plan won’t cover a certain Doctor or Physical Therapist, but they can make it known to you. Their personal convenience is not a good reason for you not to be able to get in with a certain doctor or therapist.

The hospitalist will be your on site doctor while your loved one is hospitalized almost all the time

Most hospitals now have hospitalists who specialize in caring for the patient while he is in the hospital. They are medical doctors, usually family practice or internists who do this for a living. Some do it for a season. Others do it and eventually hope to have a private practice in the area. It all depends. My experience with them has been very good. They are the liason between you and your doctor. They will care for you while you are in the hospital and will call in specialists as needed. They communicate with your doctor as needed as well.

This is the doctor you will deal with while in the hospital so he/she is the one you need to ask your questions to re the health, treatment, prognosis, length of stay, etc. of your loved one. He can tell you who to refer questions to if he can’t answer them or when they can be answered…i.e. after x test, after we see how he does in 24 hours, etc. They will come by your room each day and tend to be helpful with answers to any questions you have. My experience has been such that if I wasn’t here when they came, they called me when they were there and talked to me while in the room.

Plug into your church resources for encouragement and prayer during this time

As you are catching your equilibrium, you will need pastoral care from your church. Let them know your loved one is in the hospital or have a friend let them know. It isn’t difficult to call your church office, text a pastor, leave a voice message or even email (least effective!). During a stormy time, it can be very comforting to have a pastor or elder come and pray with you when you aren’t sure what is happening. Just don’t assume they know. It isn’t fair to them. If you prefer they NOT put you or your loved one on a prayer list, all the churches I have been in have been very supportive of your privacy. The same goes for no visitor requests.

If you are in a small group, let them know as well, or let one of them know so they can let the group know. If you don’t want visitors, that is fine, but sometimes, you may want someone to come pray with you and they fall into a different category. Think about it. I have found my contact information on my phone is my friend. I keep much more info there than I once did. It makes it much easier to contact friends and family when I’m in the hospital and have only my phone. It is also helpful for cancelling appointments, etc. if a sudden visit to the ER or an unexpected admission happened.

I know there are times when friends, church family and even pastors let us down when we are in the hospital. It happens. All you can do is let them know. And if they don’t show up to offer comfort, you will need to remind them again. Until you know what happened, don’t add to your burden by assuming they purposely had ill intent. Give them the benefit of the doubt until you find out otherwise. Definitely don’t tell everyone else until you are able to discuss it with them. You don’t want to make a small problem more complex.

GOD will provide comfort from other places. I’m sure of it. He always provides everything we need. That is a promise! You don’t know the whole picture.

Thinking through visiting preferences and making them known

If your family member is very ill, you will be wise to limit visitors. If you do, let your church know this as well. They can pray for you without all dropping in to visit. Sometimes, you just feel so stressed or jarred by the illness that visiting is just too much for you. Sometimes, it interferes with your loved one’s ability to rest. Just consider what is the best for your loved and you and decide from there. A hospitalization is often very stressful on you both. Try to decide based on what is best rather than what “people” will think.

You don’t need to add more stress to your life. You can always ask specific friends who are more comforting and easy to come because they don’t add to the stress. You don’t have to explain yourself. It’s a personal decision. It is one way you are caring for yourself and your loved one. It is the beginning of how you are regaining your equilibrium. The fact that you choose to limit visitors is your choice.

I find that people who maintain a peaceful, quiet room do much better for the most part. It is better for the patient and better for the caretaker. This is especially true if your loved one is a neurological patient. Neurological patients need quiet, not stimulation. You may want a friend to visit you quietly while they sleep. I think you get my point.

You are not in the hospital to manage a lot of visitors. You are there to recover. Make good use of the time to rest and be quiet. You can always call a friend or family member to come over or visit on the phone. But once you have been inundated with visitors, it is hard to turn them away. Think about it.

Taking care of yourself while your loved one is at the hospital

I will be going into this topic in more detail as we go through this series. For now, I’m just going to touch on one way you may need to care for yourself. Staying at the hospital 24 hours may not be the best way to care for yourself. Depending on the needs of your loved one, you may be able to go home, shower and sleep in your bed at night. Fortunately, I was able to do that. If you can’t go home and get a good rest, you may need to get friends to help spell you during the night so that is possible. You can’t be at the hospital 24 hours a day without a break and have it not affect you.

I left my home number on the white board in the room and requested the nurses to call me anytime if there was a problem. The hospitalist could call me on his rounds if I didn’t get back in time. (He didn’t have to.)  I usually returned about 10 AM. I needed the break…and the rest. By the time I came back in the morning, I was refreshed and ready to go…with clean clothes for Ron as well.

You know what you need to do to feel cared for. A shower, a good night of sleep, an afternoon nap, a cup of chai? You need breaks and meals. Make the time to do those things in the hospital so you are able to be calm for your loved one and alert for the doctor visits.

Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him,
they came each from his own place,
Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite.
They made an appointment together
to come to show him sympathy and comfort him.

And when they saw him from a distance,
they did not recognize him.
And they raised their voices and wept,
and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven.

And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights,
and no one spoke a word to him,
for they saw that his suffering was very great.

Job 2:11-13

(Actually, the infamous friends of Job, started out right. Unfortunately, after this 7 day period of not talking, they opened their mouths and things started unraveling from there.)