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Caring for Your Hospitalized Loved One

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Updated May 30, 2012

My husband has just been admitted to the hospital with a new diagnosis of acute leukemia. I have always looked after him in the past, and want to continue. But with all the doctors and nurses in the hospital caring for him, what role can I play? I feel like there isn’t anything I can contribute.

When someone you care about is in the hospital, it can be a very intimidating place. In particular, first admissions are typically very challenging. They are often longer admissions, filled with more “technical” kinds of care like intravenous medications and multiple tests, and you are less likely to know what to expect and the language being used. Add that to the stress of adjusting to a cancer in the family- no wonder you are feeling overwhelmed!

However, the role of the caregiving loved one when a patient is in the hospital is extremely important. Here are some ways that you can be a great caregiver while your loved one is in the hospital.

Take Care of the Home Front

Sometimes it is very surprising what people will worry about when they get a bad diagnosis or when they are in the hospital. Things like “Who is going to mow the lawn?” or “I forgot to pay the phone bill before I came in here” are practical concerns that may be easier things to worry about than the crisis at hand.

Taking care of these kinds of home issues are a great way to provide care for your loved one. When I say “taking care of these issues” I don’t necessarily mean that you personally need to take care of them. Great caregivers know that delegating is a super skill! When somebody offers to help you, it’s because they want to contribute- let them!

A good idea is to make up a list of regular things that need to be taken care of. Then assign someone to deal with each item on the list. Be realistic with the list. If it is something that can be put off, then put it off. Only put yourself down for things that can easily be done by you- watering plants or emptying the mailbox. Your energy will be needed elsewhere at this time.

Without worrying about what is going on outside of the hospital, your loved one can focus on what is important now- getting healthy!

Check out: Lotsahelpinghands

Spread the Word

Keeping friends and family abreast of what is going on with your loved one is another important caregiver task. The advent of computer technology and social networking make this step a breeze. You might:

  • Create a website or a Facebook or Twitter page which not only give you the chance to post information about your loved one’s journey, it also allows others to post greetings, prayers, wishes and support as well
    Check out: Caring Bridge
  • Start an information “fan out” telephone list. Fan out lists work like a pyramid scheme- you call two designated friends with an update, then they call two friends, and they call two friends and so on

Take Notes

When times are stressful, or when your loved one is feeling particularly under the weather, it can be very easy to forget questions and details. Keeping a notebook or journal handy to jot down points of information or to document your loved ones cancer journey is a very helpful caregiver task.

Details to include might be treatment plans or goals, test results, medication changes, names of specialists, any questions you have, those kinds of things. Making a plan to be present when the doctor does his or her rounds may also be helpful in this way.

Bring a Little Love to the Hospital

There is nothing more depressing than staring at the same four walls of a hospital room day after day! A great hospital caregiver task is to bring a little bit of the outside world into the hospital room. Photos of friends, family, pets, favorite places are welcome as are games, movies, get well cards. Anything that might brighten up the day of your patient is a great idea!

Be Present

Sometimes the very best caregiving you can do is just being there and being supportive. This can include a multitude of roles. You might be a shoulder to cry on, a cheerleader, an opponent in a game, a masseuse, a pillow fluffer, a silent partner. Having someone along side you can make a huge difference in how much you can handle and how easy the journey will be.

Keep in mind that there are going to be good and bad days. It isn’t your job to make all the bad stuff go away- you can’t possibly be able to do that! Your job is to make the bad stuff easier to take.

Summing it Up

Your role as caregiver doesn’t begin when the patient is discharged home. It begins as soon as a diagnosis is received.

A good deal of care is given by healthcare professionals when cancer patients are in the hospital. However, there are certain types of care that only loved ones can give. Sometimes, that type of care is just as important as any medication or treatment being given!

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