All posts by Angelo Antoline

Communicating with a Family Member in Critical Care

Sometimes it’s hard enough to say what we mean. So what do we do if we have a family member in critical care? Rest assured, communicating is an important part of the healing process for your loved one as well as your family.

Here are 5 tips to help you out:

  1. Even if your loved one is on a ventilator, he or she will most likely be able to hear you. Speak in a calm, clear manner in a normal tone of voice. There’s no need to speak loudly. Read your family member a favorite poem, book, or prayer. If the staff says it’s OK, you could even play some music.
  2. Use short, positive statements. Reassure your loved one that you’re there, and that everyone is taking good care of him or her. Help orient your family member to the surroundings by sharing the date, day of week and time of day. Help describe the noises in the room.
  3. It’s OK to acknowledge that your family member may be experiencing discomfort. You can help by explaining what is going on, “That tube is helping you breath.” Remind your loved one that this is just temporary and helping him or her to get better.
  4. Don’t ask questions that can’t be answered. Make it simple. Suggesting hand gestures to communicate may be helpful. For example, a thumbs up or thumbs could indicate pain level. A small dry erase board may also be helpful in communicating as well. You could write words that your family member could point to, or possibly your loved one can write a few words as well.
  5. Human touch goes a long way. Ask the hospital staff first, but holding a hand or touching your family member gently is a great way to express your love and concern.

If you’re unsure about the best way to communicate, don’t hesitate to ask a member of the hospital staff for help. If one way doesn’t seem to be working, there likely will be another way that can be more effective.

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6 Things to Expect When Your Loved One is in Critical Care

It’s difficult to imagine a loved one being ill or injured enough to require critical care. But being prepared for what to expect can help you manage the situation.
Here are 6 important things to know:

  1. You have an experienced team on your side. The hospital staff that’s caring for your loved one is highly trained and prepared to treat the sickest – and most medically complex – patients. From the physicians and nurses to the respiratory therapists and dietitians – they all are specially trained to care for your loved one.
  2. The tubes and equipment in a critical care unit can be intimidating. But, they all have a role and purpose in providing your loved one with the intensive healthcare that he or she needs. The healthcare team will be able to explain the role of any equipment to help you better understand what it happening.
  3. Information overload can – and most likely will – occur. Everything will be new to you from the equipment and noises to the procedures and health professionals. Take a deep breath. Once you get your bearings, think of how you can best keep track of information. Write in a notebook. Keep notes on your phone. Jot down items like key information, questions you want to ask, purpose of treatments, and names of hospital personnel.
  4. Expect peaks and valleys. Critical care can be a bumpy ride. Some days will be better than others. As much as possible, try to be patient and keep perspective.
  5. Talk to your loved one. Communicating with your loved one is important for not only him or her, but for your entire family. Often patients can hear while in critical care. Speak calmly and clearly, and make short, positive statements. Hold your loved ones hand or touch them gently if a member of the healthcare team says it’s OK.
  6. Take care of yourself. It may be a long road to your loved one’s recovery, so be sure to take time to do things like sleep, eat, and shower. Don’t be afraid to leave the room for a bit. The healthcare team will be there 24/7 to provide care.
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