I don’t remember much about the first few days of K’s hospitalization. A lot of doctors coming and going. Surgery after surgery after surgery. Tears…oh, the tears.
What I do remember, though, is the moment a (lovely) stranger, another patient’s loved one with years of experience in navigating the world of healthcare, kicked the person who was sitting next to me in the waiting room out of the way, grabbed my hand, and gave me three key pieces of advice:
1. Listen in on morning and afternoon rounds and take notes.
Be your loved one’s voice.
As as smart and caring as physicians and the other members of a medical team are, they are coming at the situation from a medical perspective. Yes, that is their job. However, there are moments when a discussion on a plan should include the patient’s perspective. Be there to provide that point of view for them. In addition, by listening to the discussion, and taking notes about what you are hearing and any concerns you have, you are preparing yourself for what is to come.
If you’re not able to be there, don’t beat yourself up. Insist that a qualified member of the team, someone who can accurately answer medical questions, provides you with a phone call, or will be able to take a call from you, immediately after rounds to give you the updated plan.
Ask questions. Ask all of your questions as well as any concerns you have regarding the info that is being discussed. And don’t be intimidated by anyone. You need to fully understand what is happening. There are no stupid questions.
Do remember, though, to be respectful of the process. Let the team do their job while you do yours. When K was in the ICU, I would listening closely and then ask questions during the end as to not interrupt their flow.
2. Know Who’s Who
There are a lot of people involved in ICU care. Attendings, residents, interns, nurses, respiratory therapists, nutritionists, etc. It can get very confusing, but it is extremely important to have everyone’s role clearly defined. Ask the nurse at the start of the day who is who and do the same at the end of the day for the night shift.
3. Keep a journal.
In many situations, your loved one may be unconscious or simply too sick to remember what happened and when. Try keeping a daily journal detailing each day.
Admittedly, I wasn’t up for real journal writing, but I did keep a list of bullet points highlighting the key events at a high level. That was enough to trigger the details when K asked for the updates.
There really are no words to express how greatful I am to that lovely lady who shared these tips with me. I know she would not mind me sharing them here in hope of helping others who, unfortunately, may have a loved one in the ICU.
I am not a healthcare professional. I am not a doctor. I am not a nurse. I am not a social worker. I am simply sharing the information learned from my own experience. Your experience is going to be different.
By reading, and if you chose, utilizing any information, tips, etc. found on On Caring and Grief you are doing so at your own risk.
Opinions expressed here on On Caring and Grief are mine and mine alone.