Should I stay? Should I go?

By Jennifer Davis Rash

The team of doctors filed into my aunt’s hospital room with charts, notes and a stockpile of questions. I was visiting her but would also be helping her for the next few days. My uncle had been by her side since she was admitted.

Should I stay? Should I go?

Was it inappropriate for me to be listening or would I need to know some of the information later and end up regretting it if I didn’t listen?

I had forgotten to ask her how much she wanted me involved in the process and figuring out what was appropriate on the spot was tricky.

I decided to compromise by not leaving the room but moving into a far corner and busying myself on the iPad. I didn’t pay close attention but was generally aware of what was being said.

Once everyone left and she and I could talk privately, I asked her what was appropriate as far as my participation. She did want me involved and listening so I could help her process all the information, so it all worked out well, but the experience spurred me to plan ahead in the future.

I realized visiting someone in the hospital is more than merely showing up to show support. There are certain do’s and don’ts related to appropriate timing, reasonable lengths of stay and being respectful to the patients’ medical information and situation (click here for more information).

The discussion with my aunt also took both of us back to times when we experienced, participated in and observed unfortunate hospital visitation scenarios.

We recalled walking into one patients’ room and finding 12 to 14 family members crowded in talking loudly, laughing, telling stories — basically having a reunion — while the patient lay writhing in pain.

I remembered finding one patient craving a drink of water but didn’t have enough strength to find the button to call for the nurse. My dad taught me years ago to always offer the patient water, food if appropriate and help with whatever seemed needing to be done. He found my grandmother several times in the hospital and nursing home seeking a simple sip of water. He and his siblings always made sure she had plenty of water while they were present.

The patient may not ask for help for whatever reason, so I try to always offer.

And while a patient who is alone probably needs more help than those with caregivers onsite, it does seem important to not overstay in either situation. Forcing a patient to “entertain” guests can exhaust him or her.

At the same time, lending a hand to caregivers and/or sitting with those waiting during surgery can be helpful and appreciated.

I remember sitting with my cousin and her husband during her dad’s heart surgery. I tried to be careful not to be a burden, but I also wanted to do what I could to help them pass the time so they weren’t anxious with worry every second.

And giving a caregiver a few minutes to go for a walk or grab some food outside the hospital room can do wonders for the caregivers’ energy and spirits. If he or she is uncomfortable leaving the patient, then bringing in food or even a snack basket is a good option.

And what about praying with the patient and/or caregiver? Absolutely. It’s a perfect way to wrap up your visit while encouraging those present and is rarely rejected in these situations no matter the patients’ faith background.

Hospital visitation — when done appropriately — allows us to serve others and show God’s love.

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