Top tips for being a hospital visitor

January 14, 2014

I am not a good hospital visitor. I find it hard making endless chitchat and get distracted by the actual medicine going on rather than doing the caring bit. But I have spent some time as a patient and know what I liked when I was incapacitated. And of course over the years on the wards I came to get an idea of what people often seemed to enjoy or respond to. As a doctor traditional visiting times are when you aren’t on the ward; after the ‘business’ of the routine day is done and whilst you wait for results to come back from the lab or XRay department and do clinics or operations in theatre. Of course nowadays visiting times are often much more flexible. But I digress.

Top Ten Tips for being a Hospital Visitor

  1. Check it is a convenient time to call and they want to see you. People are very vulnerable in their pyjamas and may not appreciate a gang from work arriving out of the blue. Having said that, most people crave visitors as hospital is boring and tedious a lot of the time.
  2. Don’t expect the patient to entertain you. That’s your job.
  3. Bring something to share or discuss or a great repartee. If you are in hospital you are ill ergo not always on top form and exhausted. Therefore the visitor has to help make the time enjoyable.
  4. The best thing to bring is another friend. This means you and the friend can chat away and the patient can hear you and join in if they can, but equally just lie there listening to two people who care about them having a chat and a laugh.
  5. Otherwise bring crosswords to do together, programmes to watch on your ipad, games to play, a pack of cards, a jigsaw (remember them?), magazines to read.Load the ipad with lots of thing to watch and leave it with the patient if you can.
  6. Most hospitals don’t allow flowers but cards and photographs are great boosts and reminders that you are not forgotten when visiting is over. A photograph album can be great fun to go through during visiting hours and afterwards.
  7. Skin and lips get very dry in hospital so if you want to bring a present bring a nice moisturiser and a lip balm. Even for men. Similarly a shot of perfume or aftershave takes away the hospital smell for a while. If you’re up to it why not bring some nail varnish and give your mate a manicure or pedicure.
  8. Hospital food is still pretty dire most places and it is lovely to have nice nutritious snacky things like crudites and dips as well as traditional chocolates and biscuits. Home made soup is good to bring in a flask with a nice roll. Leave a bottle of squash or cordial so they can flavour their water to make it more interesting or leave small cartons of juice like kids have in their lunchboxes. Don’t go for anything that needs refrigeration or reheating. It aint gonna happen.
  9. Bring something for the nurses on the ward. As a patient you don’t get much chance to show your appreciation till you leave and its nice to say thanks as your care is happening.
  10. Bring soft earplugs if they are on an open ward – it can be hard getting to sleep.
  11. Obviously usual stuff like books and magazines are great presents but concentration can be limited so fairly light stuff is often easier, or audio books.
  12. Coming for short visits more often is better than once a fortnight if you can. Days can seem never ending in hospital and having a bright half hour can hugely influence how you feel. Don’t imagine everyone else will be visiting – it is amazing how many people don’t visit because they don’t like hospitals or they think there’s no need.

8 Responses to “Top tips for being a hospital visitor”

  1. tu Says:

    Sherry, too. No?

  2. Thank you – a good and thoughtful post

  3. Sarah N Says:

    Some really good ideas. The jigsaw is good if you have one of those boards to keep it on. For long stays a photo of family/friends/the garden back home made into a jigsaw makes a real talking point

  4. Lorna Says:

    Thanks so much for this Sarah.In the last hour I’ve found out that a friend has been admitted to hospital.I’ll be printing out your hints and tips-I would never have thought about dry lips and skin x

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