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Tips when visiting a loved one in a healthc are setting

by Sue Lanza

At one time or another, you may have had the occasion to visit a relative or friend who is spending time in a health care facility. How do you make this outing a pleasant experience for both of you?

Picture a person, perhaps a friend, who has just recovered from a minor surgery and needing to spend a few days in the rehabilitation center. This friend is tired and cranky because they are working him hard in therapy and maybe he is feeling a bit scuzzy around the edges. Here you come, the "friendly visitor," all full of energy, bounding into the room to spread your cheer to your poor sick friend. Can you imagine what might happen next?

Ground Rules for Visitors

Yes, you are now crestfallen because your friend isn't overjoyed to see you. In fact, you are feeling a bit miffed that you even rushed home from work to see this ungrateful ingrate. How dare he not appreciate you. Well, if you had used the following advice for health care visitors, you would be the most welcomed guest of all time.

  • Know Your Audience. You are entering the room of a person who may not be feeling their best, not physically or mentally. Their hair may be greasy and so is their food. Gauge the response you may encounter based on the mood of the person you are visiting--not your own. And remember, if Aunt Myrtle has been a pill all her life, what is going to make her smile now--a gall bladder removal? Don't be unrealistic in your expectations of your time together.
  • Be Respectful. You are in a health care facility, not your own home, so be respectful of the space around you. For example, ask permission to come in and sit down, be mindful that the person is eating or may need privacy and please, be aware that the person may have limited stamina so keep your stay short.
  • Ask What You Can Do To Help. You may actually be of service to someone in a health care facility by asking what they need at that moment: a glass of water (if this is okay on their medical plan), a newspaper, getting the nurse for them, or even making some calls for them. I remember visiting a friend after an emergency hospital admission and all she wanted was someone to notify her insurance company of her admission. All the hospital staff was very busy as expected and although her two cousins just left, she felt funny "burdening" them with this request but I asked the question.
  • No Gifts Needed. Gifts are a lovely gesture but many health care rooms are not set up to really accommodate items like this. If a person checks out of the center a few days later, the gifts can actually present a problem to transport home or keep them alive if they are plants or flowers. A better idea would be to give the person a gift of your time to run an errand for them or walk their dog after they get home.
  • Watch Your Own Safety. Being in any health care setting puts in striking distance of all kinds of germs so be safe in your interactions to protect your friend as well as yourself. Wash your hands upon arrival and leaving. Be careful of what you touch, wear you sit and follow any cautionary warnings you see.

So did you pass the test? With a few thoughts before you go, you may achieve the objective of a health care visit: to help the patient make their stay just a little easier.