Taking Care of Yourself While a Loved One is in the Hospital

First, Take Care of Yourself

As a significant person in our patient's life, you will likely feel helpless or out of control while other members of the ACH Care Team are busy with your loved one. Hopefully, this information will help you find ways to deal with having someone dear to you in a hospital. It is difficult when you are not the one actually taking care of your child, but there is something important you can do: first, you can take care of yourself.

You are just as important to the healing process as the doctors, nurses, medicines, and other health care professionals. We know that love and encouragement has a strong effect on healing. Because of this, your well being is important to your loved one and to us. Following these tips may help you while your loved one is at ACH:

  • Eat regularly and try to sleep the number of hours your body needs. This decreases stress and increases your ability to listen and understand information given to you. Try to eat healthy foods and get up and walk around whenever possible. Exercise is very important to maintaining emotional health. Your loved one is closely monitored by a trained team member; you do not have to be available every moment. Remember, you need all the strength you have in order to help your loved one.
  • Laundry facilities, showers, and quiet places are located throughout the hospital for your use. The Family Support Assistant in each critical care waiting area can help you find those closest to you.
  • Prepare for setbacks - there will be good days and bad days. Focus on the "baby steps" of improvement and look at steps-backwards as hurdles that can be overcome. Try to keep a positive attitude. Like patients, family and friends have both good and bad days.
  • Gather support from family and friends. Generally, when people say, "Just let me know what I can do," they mean it. So, prepare a list of needs at home and in the hospital, and let each person take one or two. For example, things you might need help with are childcare for a child at home, someone to stay with your loved one when you need to leave or rest, help with food or gas expense, phone cards, taking in your mail, watering the yard, or taking care of pets. Each family's needs are individual, but all people need help from time to time. Our staff works shifts because this work is tiring; it is for you, too. Give yourself permission to ask for help.
  • Identify a "family spokesperson" who can, with your permission, contact all friends and relatives who need to know how the patient is doing. We know that information is one of the most important needs of families of hospitalized patients. We recommend that neither parent, nor primary caretaker, is given this responsibility. This way, you will have more time (and energy) to focus on your loved one and get some rest. You may also ask the family spokesperson to keep a list of people asking about you so that you will know they have made contact.
  • Organize your information. In some areas of the hospital you will be given a booklet or notebook with information specific to that area. If not, purchase a notebook or binder and use it to accumulate business cards, write down ACH Care Team members' names, phone numbers, and questions you want to ask the next time you see the doctor. You may also want to list the names and telephone numbers of persons you want to contact that day. Try to summarize information given to you in writing to see if you fully understand. It's okay to ask the same questions over and over. We realize it is hard to remember information when you are stressed, and lots of the information given is technical and has words you do not usually use. It is also healthy to use the notebook as a daily journal to record your thoughts, hopes, and fears. Journaling is known to have a healing effect. It can also help you to stay encouraged by documenting small improvements over time.
  • Hospital resources available to help you include Social Workers who can assist you while your loved one is in the hospital by providing emotional support, counseling, or referrals for resources. Chaplains are also available for spiritual support. Do not hesitate to contact them to request various resources.

This information is provided to you by the Social Work Department of the Arkansas Children's Hospital.