Spending time with my loved one

We know this is likely the first time you have ever had a family member in the Intensive Care Unit, so the following are some tips that you may want to consider when spending time with your loved one.  

  • Speak in a calm, clear manner and make short positive statements. Many family members assume because their loved one is on a ventilator they cannot hear, so they speak loudly. Don't worry they can hear you.
  • Remember to acknowledge and recognize any discomfort your loved one may be feeling. For example, you may tell them, "you're in the ICU and you have a tube to help you breath. This is just temporary and we will get the nurse to give you some medication to make you more comfortable, you are doing great and making progress."
  • It is not unusual for patients to be angry frustrated, or not be interested in communicating. Don't ask your family member questions that they can't answer. Be patient with them, the frustration level will decrease and perhaps another method of communication will work better for them. Consider:
    • Use a board so they can point to a word such as “pain." This allows them to make their needs known. We will make a board like this available for you. 
    • Provide a small dry erase board for your loved one to write on. Many patients can write just enough so you know what they want. We will make a board like this available for you.
    • Simple hand gestures may work as well, such as thumbs up to mean good and thumbs down to mean pain or that they need something.
  • Offer short phrases that offer support and reassurance. For example, "Mom, its me, I'm here with you and you are doing much better. Everyone is taking good care of you."
  • Remind your loved one that this is just temporary and they are making good progress. Encourage them and fill them with hope.
  • Hold your loved one's hand or touch them gently, but be sure to check with the ICU staff first. 
  • Help your loved one get comfortable with the surroundings, and remind them of the date and time of day. You may want to make a sign each day with the date on it and place it where they can easily see it. Describe what the different noises are to help ease any fear or anxiety they may have about them.
  • Read aloud your loved one's favorite prayers, poems, books or stories.
  • Speak to the ICU care team to see if you can play music for your family member. Staff will let you know when it is appropriate to do so. 
  • Finally, if you have a question, just ask. The ICU staff may have the perfect suggestion for you to assist in communicating with your loved one.