Tips to Advocate for Hospitalized Family Members

With visitation restricted at most hospitals and nursing facilities due to COVID-19, progress on a loved one is often communicated via phone or video chats. This can be frustrating because you might feel like you’re left in the dark and that don’t know exactly what’s going on. Don’t worry! Here are five ways you can advocate for your family member from afar as they recover.

Schedule a meeting with the administration before your loved one’s admitted. Ask if being vaccinated against the coronavirus or getting rapid/PCR tested will allow you to visit your loved one. Sometimes, you may get a flat-out no. But it never hurts to ask. Have that conversation to convey why you need to visit in person. At the very least, it shows whoever you talked to that you truly care about the hospitalized patient, and hopefully, they’ll become an advocate for your loved one.

[READ: How to Support a Loved One Who’s a Nurse.]

Drop off handwritten letters and a few family photos. Ask if they can be posted on the wall for your loved one to see (one letter can be written to your family member, while the other is for the staff). This is a wonderful way to show whoever comes to visit them, whether it’s their doctors, nurses or therapists, that you’re always there for them, even if you can’t be physically present. Also, ask if you can bring some flowers (brightens their room!) and if friends and family can send their own mail with letters and gifts. The more people the staff sees are in your loved one’s corner, the better.

Get an update around the same time every day. Sets expectations from day one about when you can call during the day and night for updates, or if it’s preferred for a member of the staff to give you a call. Often, key people on the health-care team will share their e-mail addresses in case a longer written update is needed. Sometimes, updates via text message are possible. Find out the best way to communicate with your loved one’s care providers, and be consistent.

[SEE: Life as a Health Care Worker on the Coronavirus Pandemic Front Lines.]

Always be cordial and calm with whoever you talk to, even on bad days. How you interact with the person who picks up the phone matters. Your words, your tone of voice and your pitch all matter. No matter how bad a day gets, do your best to be positive and let it shine through your calls with staff. If you disagree with something someone says, take note of it and seek clarification on the matter in question. And most of all, if someone provides an update on your loved one that stirs a sense of urgency (e.g., “your mom had a heart attack” or “your dad is unconscious”), stay calm and ask what’s being done.

Request a video chat with your loved one at least once a day. To see and say hi to your loved one is vital to both your and their sanity. Usually, the facility will have someone in charge of FaceTime/Zoom calls who wheels an iPad from room to room. If this isn’t the case, you could have your loved one’s cellphone delivered to their room so that you can do video calls with them that way. For the staff to know you want that one-on-one time is another way to show you support your loved one’s recovery.

[See: Myths About Coronavirus.]

Bottom Line

Every way that you advocate for your loved one will encourage staff to care for them as best as they can.

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