No one really likes hospitals.
But I feel that I get particularly freaked out about them.
I grew up in hospitals. Someone was always sick, or dying, or fighting for life. Sometimes that person was me. Sometimes it was little sister. A lot of the times it was Uncle.
And all of the other times, it was Someone That I Loved.
And hospitals represented the fact that Maybe They Weren’t Going To Be Here Much Longer.
It was traumatic.
And I’m a little damaged about it.
Walking into a hospital is a little like finding myself 60 feet under water, without an oxygen tank, or maybe waking up realizing that I have been buried alive.
On the positive side, I am a pro at hospitals. I know the ins and the outs, how to make best friends with the nurses, how to get extra blankets, what to bring, and how to quiet noisy neighbors.
Most importantly, I know how to make the patient comfortable, and a little happier, and take their mind off of being in the hospital a bit.
Because the person who hates to be in hospitals more than you, is the person that you are visiting.
So here are eight ways to make a trip to the hospital a little bit more pleasant. And I hope, elephants, that it’s a short, unnecessary one. Blessings, and love.
1). Be kind to the hospital staff.
Everyone, from the janitor to the nurse to the doctor. Everyone there is, most likely, trying their best. They probably have spent a lot of time and money getting to be where they are, and, regardless, they truly do want to help us feel better. They are often overworked, understaffed, and exhausted. If we smile at them, and ask them how they are, not only is it nice and the right thing to do, because they are human, but they will remember—and we can be sure that the nice people are remembered just as well as the not nice people.
And that the nice people get extra Jello.
2). Advocate for your patient.
Since hospital staff are exhausted, overworked, understaffed, and probably surviving on caffeine, adrenaline, and promises of an on-call nap, we need to do our best to advocate for our friends and family, or whoever the patient may be.
Walk down to the nurse’s station to ask questions.
Call the doctor.
Ask specific questions, and wait for clear answers.
Write them down.
By doing this, we are helping them help us, because there will be less confusion in the future.
3). Bring pieces of home.
Hospitals are bleak. Whitewashed, sterile, and gray. If it’s okay with the hospital, bring things from home that are comforting to the patient—their favorite pillow, blanket or stuffed animal. (Mr. Bear still goes everywhere with me.) Even a picture or a small memento, to help them retain a sense of familiarity.
4). Make it easier to sleep.
Beeps, bumps, a constant humming, lights, footsteps. Sleeping in hospitals is rough, and it’s important for recovery to sleep well. Bring your patient ear plugs, and an eye mask. Perhaps some soothing lavender aromatherapy oils, or calming music with ear phones.
5). Bring a thoughtful gift.
Flowers are a lovely, classic gift (I love peonies, just as an FYI). But there are only so many flowers a person can receive before it starts to look like a florist shop. Somehow, perhaps because I was always in hospitals, and in funeral homes (bright, shiny times), a lot of flowers also always remind me of death. Cheerful.
We know our friends and loved ones. What would cheer them up, while they’re resting and recovering? A new novel? A crossword puzzle? Chocolate? Polish her nails and chat? Just sit and visit a while?
6). Be the best visitor you can be.
Not everyone is a cheerful pillow fluffer, or can sit bedside for 10 hours.
What are we best at? Running errands, that are perhaps falling behind while our loved one is in the hospital? Letting out their puppy, or feeding the cats? Doing a load of laundry, or perhaps reading them their email? Be you. And be a good one.
7). Keep emotions in check.
Hospital trips are rarely happy (babies being the exception). When someone is ill or injured, it is perfectly natural to be upset—of course. But letting loose in front of them will probably only make them feel worse, and uncomfortable, and even a bit guilty.
I can remember being very sick and feeling like I wanted to apologize to people—like, “I’m really sorry that this is so upsetting for you, I wish I could make it better.”
Trust me. Everyone in this situation is upset, and the patient is probably more freaked out than anyone else.
Support them. Encourage them. Better yet?
8). Ask your patient what they need. And then do it.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman