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Intensive Care: A Guide for You and Your Family

Looking after yourself

It’s hard to leave the bedside when your loved one is so ill. You can help them best by taking care of yourself. We encourage family members to go home to rest and eat, and take a break from the hospital when possible.

Take a break – Visiting hours for the ICU are usually quite flexible. You’ll be able to keep up your strength better if you take a break every once in a while. It’s OK to:

  • go for a walk in the hospital
  • get some fresh air outside for a few minutes
  • grab something to drink from the cafeteria or vending machine

Your loved one will continue to be watched closely and cared for even if you’re not there.

Most waiting rooms are small and there are usually several families who use them at the same time. If you have other family members or close friends you may want to take turns staying at the hospital. You can call the unit at any time to get an update on your loved one’s condition if you’re outside of the hospital. If your family is large you may want to pick one person to get updates.

Eat – You may not feel like eating at first. Stress can lower your appetite but do take time to eat regularly and drink enough fluids to keep yourself healthy. If you have any medical conditions be sure to take your medicines and keep up your strength.

Rest – It’s hard not to feel guilty for not being by your loved one’s bedside 24 hours a day. You need to give yourself time to rest. This will give your loved one time to rest also. You may have difficulty sleeping so rest when you can. Staff try to give patients uninterrupted sleep at night if possible. It’s better for you as well to get as much sleep as you can at night. The staff will contact you immediately if they need to or if there’s any change in your loved one’s condition while you’re away.

You may get an information package that has the ICU contact phone number and other important information. Please review this carefully and ask questions if there are things you don’t understand. If you don’t get a package, you can ask your nurse how to contact the unit.

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