It is normal to feel upset at seeing someone you love in the Intensive Care Unit, so it is understandable if you are finding it difficult to cope. There are a number of resources available to help support you during this time. The ICU team is always available to answer any questions you may have. You may also find it helpful to speak with a social worker or chaplain. To see a chaplain, a nurse or a volunteer can call one for you, or you can dial extension 0 on a KGH phone and ask for the on-call chaplain. Someone will be available to you any time, day or night. If you'd like to speak to someone from a specific denomination or religion, the chaplain will help contact one for you.
We also welcome your feedback. If you would like to speak to someone about your experience, the Critical Care program managers can be reached at extension 4491 (K2ICU) and extension 6287 (D4ICU). If you need to contact someone immediately, please speak with the charge nurses who is available 24 hours per-day.
Self care for care givers
Your family member in the ICU isn't the only person who needs your attention during this stressful time. So do you. Stressful situations in addition to staying awake all night, every night, will eventually wear on you, and can make you prone to illness. A good diet and regular amounts of sleep will help provide you with the energy you require to be an active member of your loved one's care team. Try to eat healthy foods regularly and whenever possible, get up and walk around. Exercise is very important to maintaining emotional health. Also, do not feel you have to be available and in the ICU with your loved one at every moment of the day. We have a highly trained medical team caring for your family member and they will be monitored closely at all times.
An important measure in taking care of yourself is to gather support from family and friends. If other people are coming to the ICU to visit, take that opportunity for a little time to refresh yourself. Structure time away from the hospital by asking a friend or family member to take over for a few hours. Make a rotational system to spell each other off, if there are many people available to help.
Remember that the time in the ICU may be the beginning of a longer recovery where your strength will also be needed. If family members from out of town offer to visit, encourage and welcome their support. The nurses and doctors take breaks during their shift because the continual light and noise in the ICU can be draining. You should be taking regular breaks from the constant sensory input as well. When someone asks, "what can we do for you, we're here to help," give yourself permission to ask for help. A critical illness in the family is truly the time to muster support from those who care.
Support at home
As you spend many hours in the intensive care unit supporting your loved one, matters may go unattended at home. Make sure you delegate someone to pick up your newspaper and mail. If someone offers to cook or clean for you, take them up on it. Ask someone you trust to make sure all your bills are being paid. If you have children, lean on the support of family and friends who want to provide child care.