Saturday, September 19, 2015

Ways You Can Help When Someone is Hospitalized

The outpouring of love we were shown when Kerry was in the hospital was overwhelming. So much so I feel I owe a million thank-you's.

I also thought about how in the past I had no idea what to do for people in the hospital. I always had a fear of intruding or being a bother to someone. Mostly I felt like nothing I did would really matter.

After this experience, I can tell you everything matters! This has been an eye-opener for me and I will no longer think I cannot help in some way.

My purpose for this post is to give different ideas on how to help when a friend or loved one is hospitalized. Whether you are close friends with the patient or just a co-worker, here are some ways you can help.

  • Make sure the spouse has a ride to the hospital. In the midst of chaos and crisis the spouse doesn't need to be driving.
As soon as I called my mom and in-laws to tell them Kerry was being transferred to another hospital, they were both persistent that I did not drive myself. My mom could get there the quickest so I rode with her.
  • In those first hours be there--physically present--for support. Even if they don't allow you in the room, wait in the waiting room. It means the world to someone to know people are there with them and they are not alone.
My mom wanted to be with me, she wanted to know I was okay, and most importantly to be there in case I was not.

My in-laws were there as soon as they could be as well. They stayed at the hospital that night until very late. They sat with Kerry and me, and made sure everything was well taken care of.

Kerry spent the majority of the first day in the ER triage. Only two people could be in there at a time. I didn't want to leave his side, which left my mom and in-laws taking turns sitting in there with me. I was so happy to know they were all there.
  • If you are close with the person, offer to care for their children. Every parent, especially moms are burdened about what to do with their kids during a crisis. 
When I realized Kerry's condition was serious, I had to quickly find someone to watch my children. I was fortunate my good friend Danielle and her husband Mike live very close to the hospital. As soon as I called her she offered to come get them immediately and keep them as long as I needed.
  • If you are keeping their children, really care for them. Also, send the parents text updates with pictures letting them know how well the kids are doing. This continues to put the parent's minds at ease.
Danielle and Mike ended up keeping our kids overnight and took them to church the next morning. They fed my kids, played with them, clothed them, and did everything Kerry and I would do for them. Danielle also sent me updates on how they were doing and pictures of them having fun. I never ask her to text me; she just did. I needed that. I never once worried about them or if they were being well taken care of. She and Mike are rock stars for caring for my kids so my mom and in-laws could be at the hospital with Kerry and I the first night.
  • If the hospital stay is going to be a few days or longer, offer to keep the children at their own house. Routine is what most children, especially small ones need. If you can keep them in their environment it helps alleviate some of the stress for the kids and parents.
After the first night my mom took care of my kids the remainder of Kerry's time in the hospital. She stayed at our house with them, took them to school, kept them in their routine. It was a huge relief to never worry about them. She also called and text me updates without being asked.
  • If you live close to the hospital, offer your home for a shower, a good night's sleep, laundry, a home-cooked meal. Offer it, and demand they know you are serious. Bring them a key if you have to. They may not take you up on it, but it's something they need to know is an option.
I had many people offer me a place to stay if needed. It was comforting to know I had that option.
  • If you are close family/friend offer to stay for a few hours or an entire night with the one hospitalized so the spouse can get out of the hospital for a few hours or to sleep in a real bed for the night.
My mother-in-law stayed with Kerry one night, allowing me to go to my Aunt and Uncle's house to shower and get a good night's sleep. This was greatly needed for me, and I didn't feel near as guilty knowing someone else was with Kerry for the night. I wouldn't have left him overnight had she not stayed with him.
  • Offer to help out getting the kids to activities. Do your kids go to ballet, soccer, karate, etc. together? Let them know you would gladly come get them for the activity and take them back home afterwards.
Our kids babysitter Kat, gladly took Hayden to dance class so my mom wouldn't have to. This was a big help for my mom.
  • Call or text the spouse and ask what they would like from a specific coffee shop, restaurant, or convienince store. It's important to say directly, "I'm headed to Starbucks and then to see you at the hospital...what coffee is your favorite and what kind of muffin do you like?" If you just say, "Can I get you something?" or "Do you need anything?" they will not take you up on it most of the time. People feel burdened about being a burden to others, don't leave it up to them to reach out.
Our friends Kasey and Angela called one afternoon and made me tell them what I wanted for dinner. They went to Panera and picked it up and brought it to the hospital.

Samantha, a friend I haven't seen since college saw my Facebook and immediately messaged me asking what she could do. She actually got specific asking what she could bring me from Starbucks. I was very hungry and needing caffeine. I took her up on her offer. She and her beautiful daughter brought it by and simply dropped it off so they wouldn't wake Kerry. She also continued to check on me and see if I needed anything else during our stay.
  • Show up with coffee or food without any notice.
One morning my friend Andrea showed up on her own with drinks from Starbucks. I was so thankful as I needed some caffeine right at that moment. She dropped them off on her way to work. I was so thankful to have this nice treat as a surprise.

Our friends Randy and Shawna brought cookies for our kids to have when they came to visit their daddy in the hospital.

My mom bought snacks and left them for me.
  • If you are healthy (this is important, don't show up sick) and able, go visit them in the hospital. Hospital stays get lonely, and when people come visit you know they genuinely care about you. It's nice to see loving faces and have conversations with people other than the nurses and doctors. It is a welcomed distraction from the boredom and depression of being closed off in a hospital room.
We had so many people come visit one of the days. It was nice. It took Kerry's mind off the pain, and it gave me a boost of support with each family member and friend that came by.
  • Give them gift cards or money for meals, gas, vending machines, walmart, target, etc.
My dad and Kerry's Meemaw and Papa both gave us money to make sure we didn't have to worry about spending our own money while there. At first I tried to decline it, but after a few days, I was so thankful we had it. My mom also brought a Ziploc bag of quarters. Those came in handy for the vending machines. Something I would never have thought of.
  • If you aren't able to visit them in the hospital make sure to call, text, or reach out to them on social media each day. It will not annoy them. They may not answer you right away or somedays at all, but it will mean the world to them that you are checking in on them.
Many people text and called often. Most of the time I was able to answer them. It was so nice to know people were praying and genuinely cared.

My niece Deana, our mutual friend Jennifer, and I have stayed in an ongoing group text for the past year or so. We are usually talking about things our kids do to drive us crazy or sending funny articles or memes to each other. We are always sarcastic and love to make each other laugh. During this time, they continued to send me texts. They were serious about prayers and concern for Kerry, but also continued to me make me laugh. I needed to laugh. I told them I would always need that. I appreciate they didn't go away for those few days in fear of what to say, what not to say.

My friends Danielle and Kelly also sent me texts and made me laugh daily.
  • Offer to bring clothes, blankets, and pillows from their home
My sister-in-law texted me about purchasing some clothes for me to have in the hospital, but I told her my mom was bringing me some from home the next day. I was very appreciative of the offer though.

Our pastor's wife is a nurse at the hospital. She came by a few times to see what we needed. One night she took Kerry's blanket and pillow home, washed it, and brought it back. It actually made him feel better once he smelled it. I remember him saying, "Gosh, this smells so good and clean." Those little things matter.
  • Pray, genuinely pray for the person hospitalized and their family.
We had so many people and churches let us know they were praying. I felt those prayers. Those prayers kept me calm, made me feel safe, and God answered them in healing Kerry. Don't ever think your prayers don't matter; they matter in a big way.

Lastly here are some things people need during their stay and may not have with them.  I happened to have most of these, but it made me take note of what people might need in the future.
  • A blanket 
  • Pillows
  • A sweatshirt or hoodie (hospitals are freezing)
  • Sweatpants
  • Warm socks
  • Snacks
  • Magazines or books
  • Toothbrush and Paste
  • Shampoo, Conditioner, Body Wash, Lotion
  • Dry Shampoo (I didn't think of this until later, but it would've been nice to have)
  • Razor and Shaving Cream
  • Mints, Gum, Hard Candy
  • Bottled Water
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Change for vending machines
  • Contacts case and saline 
  • Good toilet paper!
  • iTunes, Kindle, Nook gift card (if you know what device they have)
  • Chapstick
  • Phone charger

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