When a loved one is admitted to the Intensive Care Unit, it’s difficult to know what exactly to do or how to help. The chaotic environment leads to a more passive disposition where family members are swept up in the hustle, rather than asking the right questions and understanding the treatment options fully. The goal of a family member or caregiver is to secure comfort for their loved one, as well as, help him or her make the most informed treatment decisions.
Basic Tips for Supporting a Loved One the Intensive Care Unit
Handling an ICU visit starts before the health issues begin. Knowing your loved one’s health wishes relieves much of the stress of emergency situations. Discussing and documenting your family member’s end of life wishes and treatment desires will makes decisions in the ICU a little more straight-forward. These conversations are easier before the possibility of making those decisions seem realistic. Opening doors of communication early will relieve future anxiety.
Once your loved one does find himself in the ICU, it’s necessary to first clarify the exact reasons he was admitted. Communicate with the healthcare team that is assisting your loved one. Talk to the nurses and write down the specifics of symptoms and the process of diagnosis. Little but vital details can get lost as the family and the patient communicate with multiple members of the healthcare team.
Documenting is helpful during the process in determining a treatment plan and when encountering situations down the line. Keep all the health information in one place since it’s so easier to forgot exactly what the doctor said or the helpful little things they mention that are not always recorded.
Maintain communication with the whole healthcare team as well as within the family. Talking to one doctor may lead to a variety of answers depending on their specialty or point of view. Be clear on what your understanding is vs their answer. With so many on the healthcare team, it’s easy to find oneself on completely different pages.
The nurse advocates for the patient but the patient doesn’t always make his voice known. Be vigilant about understanding the comfort level and symptoms of your loved one so it can be clearly communicated to the nurses and doctors. The medical team relies on the patient for understanding how they are feeling. If the patient has a difficult time communicating this, the treatment methods may not be as effective.
This may include guiding your loved one step by step and supplying them with their aids, whether it be hearing, visions, or physical aids. Talk through the procedures and reasons for hospital stay. This help orient him and increase his comfort level. The hustle and bustle of the Intensive Care Unit with nurses going in and out, other medical professionals, people filling the hallways, it’s difficult for even a healthy young person to not be overwhelmed. Confusion and anxiety greatly increases as a senior tries to absorb the activity. As their loved one, it’s important to simplify things and help them focus on the most important issues. Keep them moving to avoid muscle deterioration and increase brain activity. This means talk multiple walks around the unit.
Stay on top of medications. A designated family member or caregiver should have the patient’s medications with them with their medication chart. Medications can easily be unintentionally mixed up when a loved one is on multiple types. Have a doctor review their current medications. Mixing medications that lead to symptoms will not only be harmful to the patient but also may result in an incorrect diagnosis.