How to HELP a Loved One During a Hospital Stay

Daily visitors who provide structured activities to keep patients engaged and socially interactive are hugely important. Assistance and companionship is particularly helpful during meals.

Bring the patient’s Medical 101 Sheet to the hospital with the names and contact information for primary doctors plus all the medications being taken. Medications should be reconciled upon admission and discharge.

It can be helpful to bring in a few familiar objects from home, like family photos, a favorite comforter or blanket for the bed, or a beloved book.

Throughout the day, speak in a calm, reassuring tone of voice and tell the patient where they are and why they are there. It’s helpful to do specific reorienting activities so that patients know what day it is, what time it is, who is taking care of them, and what the day is going to be like with regards to tests and physician visits. When giving instructions, state one fact or simple task at a time; be careful not to overwhelm or overstimulate the patient.

Safely help patients walk as soon as possible, after the go ahead (and with assistance) from the medical team.

If the patient is having trouble sleeping, milk or herbal tea, soothing music, and massage may be more helpful than a sleeping pill to promote normal sleep patterns while minimizing medications. Disordered sleep is the primary cause of delirium.

If the patient typically wears glasses or uses a hearing aid, make sure to bring them to the hospital so that the patient can hear and see to the best of their ability. The same goes for dentures — patients may not be able to eat without them.

If you detect signs that could indicate delirium — confusion, memory problems, personality changes — it’s important to alert nurses or physicians as soon as you can. Family members are often the first to notice subtle changes.

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