When someone must spend extensive time recuperating in a hospital bed, it’s important that loved ones, caregivers, and even the patients themselves put in the effort to make the stay as comfortable as possible.
Here are a few tips and suggestions for ways to demonstrate those hospitality skills and make a hospital stay as comfortable as possible.
Make the Hospital Room Feel More Like Home
One of the simplest ways to make a hospital stay more enjoyable is to encourage patients and their loved ones to bring items from home, such as:
- A stuffed animal for a child.
- A throw pillow or blanket for the end of the bed.
- A small plant to set on the window sill.
- A photograph by the bedside.
- A familiar painting to hang on the wall
Small-yet-significant touches such as these can make a cold, sterile hospital room feel much more inviting.
Social support and face-to-face interactions with friends and family can be vital to a healthy recovery. However, simply maintaining a revolving door of guests can be exhausting, especially for someone who is actively recovering from a serious medical procedure.
It’s important to impress on patients the value of limiting and staggering visitors. Not only should the number of visitors be kept to a reasonable number, but the structure of their stay should be considered as well. Here are a few factors to consider:
- Who will you invite? Visits from close family and friends make sense. Extended family and acquaintances may want to wait to pay their respects until you get home, though.
- How long should each visit last? If this isn’t made clear from the get-go, you may find visitors are willing to hang around for hours at a time. Try to set up a 10-15 minute window per visit.
- Can you schedule visitors? Staggering visitors by having them contact you beforehand can help to avoid overcrowded hospital rooms and exhausting back-to-back visits.
- Have you considered hospital protocols? The coronavirus pandemic shook up the hospital visitation routine, serving as a reminder that you should always make sure that you’re aware of what the current visitation rules are before sending out invitations.
As a general rule of thumb, as you help patients develop their visitor policy, remind them to be thoughtful about “who, when, and how” each visit should take place.
Establish Good Relations Between Patients and Caregivers
If a patient is going to spend a significant amount of time cooped up in a hospital room, it’s important that good relations are established with the staff and local patients.
Doctors, specialists, registered nurses, and other caregivers will regularly be checking in, conducting tests and procedures, and generally interacting with the patient. Other patients may share a room as well and may spend significant time in close proximity to the patient.
With this in mind, caregivers and patients alike should make an effort to maintain a congenial, empathetic stance as they interact. Everyone should strive to practice active listening and tap into their emotional intelligence as they go through the often stressful, exhausting process of working and recovering, respectively, side by side.
Prioritize Comfortable Bedding
As a nurse, it’s easy to focus on health concerns, such as providing meals, administering medication, and properly using Fowler’s positions for patient comfort and safety. As a patient, it’s easy to focus on bringing things to do and knowing how to interact with visitors and hospital staff. One easy-to-forget item, though, is the state of the patient’s bedding.
If an individual is going to spend significant time sitting and laying down in a hospital bed, it’s essential that they consider their bedding throughout that time. Apart from basic hospital bedding that is typically provided, patients should consider bringing extra items, such as:
- An extra pillow or two: Pillows can serve as both comfort and nostalgic decor.
- Blankets: A throw for the end of the bed and a cozy fleece are both good ideas.
- A neck pillow: Extended time spent resting in a specific direction can lead to pinched nerves and cramped muscles.
Make sure that whatever is brought into the hospital can be washed in a sanitized laundry load once it returns home.
Have Reading Material On Hand
One of the most important skills of a successful nurse is being detail-oriented. Providing valuable advice to patients, such as limiting visitors and bringing comforting items from home, is already a good start.
If you want to truly shine, though, consider having entertainment options on hand for bed-bound guests as well. If your hospital already has books for patients to read, get familiar with the options available. If they don’t, consider hitting up a book sale and pulling together your own collection to offer to patients.
Try to aim for a smattering of best-sellers, mysteries, classics, fiction, non-fiction, and so on. That way, you can offer bored patients a smorgasbord of different reading options that don’t require endless hours staring at a screen.
Change Up the Lighting, Play Music
An important aspect of the metaparadigm of nursing is being holistic in your caregiving approach, which means considering the whole person as well as their environment, on top of their health and clinical needs. One of the best ways that you can round out your basic hospital care activities — such as providing medications or changing bandages — is by offering ways to change up your patients’ environments, as well.
Hospital lights are often very harsh, and the constant buzz of beeping machines, chatter filled with medical terminology, and the sounds of uncomfortable patients can be exhausting. Consider encouraging individuals to bring their own lamps from home with warmer lighting, and offer them opportunities to select reasonable music to play in their room.
Small gestures like these can make a world of a difference to someone stuck in the same space for days and weeks on end.
Take Time For Breaks
Finally, as you spend your time investing in the long-term comfort of others, always remember to take a little time for yourself, as well. Self-care is a critical aspect of long-term, sustainable caregiving. One of the easiest ways to implement this into your caregiving schedule is by taking regularly scheduled breaks. During these, you can try to engage in various self-care activities, such as:
- Eating healthy food.
- Drinking water.
- Taking a quick nap.
- Going for a walk.
- Meditating and praying.
- Reading a book.
Try to check in on your patients’ current needs and comfort levels before taking a break so that you can genuinely unplug and enjoy your brief times of recharging.
In addition, consider encouraging the patients themselves to take some time to indulge in the above activities as well. With prolonged time spent in bed, a “self-care break” can often be just what the doctor ordered — assuming their recovery warrants the activity.
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