What To Do When a Loved One is Hospitalized

When someone is suddenly hospitalized, relatives are also impacted and need a support system, according to Kelly McElligott, a licensed clinical social worker at Loyola Medicine’s Burn Center.

“Families are totally unprepared for a sudden injury and overwhelmed when it is a very serious injury,” she said. “Families need a road map to guide them through their worst moments, and that is my job as a hospital social worker.” 

McElligott’s top tips for those who suddenly have a loved one in the hospital follow:

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. “If you do not take care of yourself, you cannot take care of someone else. Many family members, especially parents, feel they need to be at the hospital 24/7 with their loved one. Everyone needs to take time to eat, sleep, exercise, and be with other people in the outside world.”

ACCEPT HELP FROM YOUR COMMUNITY. “Friends, relatives, colleagues, and others will offer assistance, and it is critical to accept help. For example, coming home to a clean house and a meal in the refrigerator is very convenient and also comforting.” Online programs, such as those that coordinate meal organization, task and errand running, and communication with family, can be helpful.

ASK A LOT OF QUESTIONS. “Nurses, physicians, social workers, and all medical staff are here to answer questions and offer resources.” 

TAKE NOTES WHEN MEETING WITH YOUR HEALTHCARE TEAM. “Write down questions or concerns as they come to you and share them with your care team. As they say in school, there are no bad questions, so do not feel shy or embarrassed. The more you know, the less you will fear.”

TALK TO OTHERS ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE. “Often, this will help reduce anxiety and build confidence…. Talking helps define the event or injury, remove the emotion and perceived stigma, and can help identify next steps to move forward.” 

USE PEER SUPPORT. “Others who have walked the path you are on offer invaluable support, insight, and understanding…. There are amazing stories of patients and family members who are very withdrawn and depressed who respond positively to our former burn patient volunteers. They are able to see that life does go on, there are others who survived much worse injury and are still laughing, socializing, and enjoying life.”

This article was adapted from information provided by Loyola University Health Sciences.

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