How to Support a Hospitalized Loved One from Afar
One of the most heartbreaking things about the COVID pandemic is how it forces us to limit visitors for our hospital patients. While we recognize that hospitalized patients rely on their friends and family to cheer them up and provide assurance that their household responsibilities are being met, the risk of spreading COVID is too great to allow visitors at this time. Thankfully, there are many creative ways to “visit” your loved one in the hospital.
Pick up the phone. While visitors are restricted, phone calls are welcome, provided that they don’t interrupt the patients’ sleep.
Send a card or gift. Sometimes it’s easiest to express your feelings in writing. A heartfelt note of appreciation and good wishes goes a long way in helping patients feel better.
Use technology. Ask the staff if they can help you connect with your loved one electronically. With as good as the technology is, you might forget that you weren’t there in person.
Regardless of the method you choose to connect, keep the conversation light, supportive, and upbeat, if possible. Try not to worry the patient about things they cannot manage from their hospital room. Their main job is to relax and feel better.
Chip in. If the patient mentions a worry—picking up the mail, getting meals for a spouse, or walking the dog—offer to help. Taking these worries off the patient’s mind is more helpful than you know.
As an additional note, it is more important than ever to not delay care. Don’t let fear of COVID keep you from seeing your primary care or specialty doctors. They can help you stay healthy and perhaps avoid hospitalization. If you have any concerns or questions regarding safety, please visit svhealthcare.org/covid-19/openready or speak with your providers’ offices.
Ann Marie Swann, MD, is a hospital medicine physician at Southwestern Vermont Health Care.