Preparing yourself ahead of time before visiting a friend or family member in the hospital can take a lot of stress off of you and the person you are visiting.
When people need to spend time in the hospital it’s important to show them you care and that you are thinking of them. If they’re feeling up for it, it’s great if you can visit, otherwise sending them a text, e-mail, or making a phone call is also appreciated.
Here are some tips for visiting someone in the hospital
- Call ahead: Set up a time in advance for visiting someone in the hospital and then call the day-of your visit to make sure the person you are visiting is still feeling up for some company. A simple phone call gives them time to rest beforehand if needed, and won’t leave them surprised by unexpected guests arriving at a bad time.
- Bring a small gift: It’s easy to get bored, or feel uncomfortable when you’re stuck in a hospital room. When you visit someone in a hospital it’s a nice gesture to bring a small gift. Think about an activity to keep them busy such as a puzzle book, some magazines, or an adult colouring book. Another gift idea could be a pair of cozy socks or slippers, a throw blanket, or a robe. You can also ask if there’s anything you can bring them from home. Keep in mind that there may be restrictions in place for things such as flowers, scented items, or food.
- Don’t overstay your welcome: It’s important to remember that the person you’re visiting is in the hospital for a reason. They may appear to be in good health and high spirits when you first arrive, but they may tire more easily than they let on. Plan for a short hospital visit, aim for around 20-30 minutes. Pay attention to how the person you’re visiting is feeling and if they show signs of tiring.
- Check hospital policies: Before planning your visit look into what the hospital visiting hours are for the unit the person you’re visiting is staying in. There might also be limitations on the number of guests allowed in the hospital room at a time. Be respectful of other patients and families that may be nearby.
- Be there: It’s nice to visit once, but if the person you are visiting is staying in the hospital for a long time, plan on stopping by on a regular basis. If the person you are visiting gets discharged from the hospital, remember that they might still need some extra help, or could use some cheering up at home. Check-in once in awhile to see if they need anything, or stop by for a visit if possible.
- Be sensitive to how the person is feeling: Even if your hospital visit was pre-planned, the person you are visiting may be feeling very sick. Be aware of their mood and act accordingly. They may just appreciate the comfort of your company, and sitting in silence is okay. Or, they may need some cheering up and would appreciate some fun stories. For people who are sick in the hospital, each day can be very different and vary greatly.
- Excuse yourself if a doctor or nurse comes in: During your hospital visit, a nurse or doctor may come in the room to see their patient. If this happens, it’s best to excuse yourself and wait outside the room until the medical team is done.
- Wash your hands: The person you are visiting may be extra susceptible to germs, and hospitals are full of germs. Protect the person you’re visiting and yourself, by washing your hands thoroughly and using the available hand sanitizer. Don’t visit if you have the cold or flu; it’s better to wait a few days rather than risk passing on your germs.
- Offer to help with things at home: Take some stress off of the person you’re visiting by offering to help take care of something at home for them. They might have kids that need to be driven to activities, pets that need walking, or perhaps you could offer to do some yardwork or pick up their mail. Life continues even when someone is in the hospital. It’s reassuring to know at least some things will be taken care of during that time. When they get out they’ll have one less thing to worry about. See also our Elizz caregiving article on Assisting Someone with Daily Living Needs.
- Don’t play doctor: Even if you think you know what the person you’re visiting needs medically, or the treatment they should try, it’s best to keep it to yourself.
Visiting someone in the hospital can be a tough experience for you especially if they are a friend or family member. It’s hard to see someone you care about feeling sick. The best thing you can do is to just be there for them. Even for those who don’t always show it, your hospital visit is very much appreciated.