Hospital admission and stay are very difficult and extremely stressful times. In addition to being sick, distressed, and oftentimes in pain, the hospital experience is wrought with uncertainty and the sense of helplessness. A patient is dependent upon the hospital staff for treatment, food and human contact. And being uprooted from the daily activities of one’s life is very unsettling at best. Being admitted to the hospital can be a very stressful and challenging experience. Illness can bring much disruption to the lives of patients.
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Often patients don’t know what to do during the hospitalization, and are left with long intervals of time, often resulting in watching television in between hospital staff interactions, diagnostic tests and receiving visitors.
1. Take care of your needs. Don’t overlook yourself. This is challenging and seemingly contradictory. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t have much to give anyone else, especially a sick loved one or friend. Far too often, care givers overlook their own health and well-being while taking care of others. This is a very difficult and stressful time for everyone involved. If you don’t get your proper rest or eat appropriately, you’re placing yourself at risk for rapid burn out, stress and even illness. Do not ignore your feelings and emotions, honestly allow yourself to experience them. Sometimes you’re frightened, anxious, distressed. Loneliness and fatigue occur often. All of these emotions are normal. It is important to acknowledge them.
2. Encourage and support their decision to get well. While many people focus on wanting to get over their illness, it is crucial to encourage your loved one to focus on what’s working. During a hospital stay, many patients tend to focus on not wanting to be sick, rather than getting well. While the difference between the two may seem subtle but it is very important. A focus on health, essentially stimulates the body to improve and to heal. An intention to get well, in very important and measurable ways helps the body.
3. Surround their room with positive things. First and foremost, one of the healthiest things you can do for your loved one during their hospitalization and recuperation is to turn off the news (any type, unless you just watch the weather)! Encourage them not to watch violent, depressing television programs. If possible, bring photos, blankets, small tokens from home that will help the patient to feel more comfortable. Also, encourage him/her to watch inspiring comedy and educational programs. Use the resources that are available to you via the Internet, books, CDs, DVDs, and other formats.
4. Stay informed. With the patient’s permission, ask the treating physician pertinent questions. Write the patient’s questions down, and act as an advocate. Ask about options, second and even third opinions, if the patient isn’t comfortable with the doctor’s recommendations. The internet has great health information resources. Use them!
5. Help to cultivate optimism. Medical research demonstrates optimists are healthier and recover faster than pessimists. Every crisis can be viewed as an opportunity. Your encouraging words can have a tremendous impact. Help your loved one to see that their cup isn’t necessarily half empty, it’s half full. A pessimistic view can be transformed into one that is more optimistic and healthier.
6. Help them to relax. This is a very important thing to do. Most illnesses are stress related. When your body is relaxed it has the opportunity to regenerate and heal.
7. Encourage laughter. Laughter is one of the easiest and fastest ways to promote health. During the last 20 years researchers across the globe have identified the positive impact it has on our bodies, especially its ability to reverse the impact of stress, a key ingredient to the development of most chronic diseases.