Patients need the comfort and love of caring friends and relatives during hospitalizations, but visitors can also be fatiguing for patients and a potential source of infection. These are some guidelines for making your visit helpful and thoughtful.
- Call ahead. Ask whether the patient is accepting visitors. Ask about visiting hours, restrictions on visitors or gifts. Ask if the patient is accepting phone calls and then ask permission of the patient to arrange a visit.
- Wash your hands and use hand sanitizer before touching a patient or handing something to a patient.
- Make visits short, not more than 15 to 20 minutes unless the patient requests that you remain longer. Patients often tire easily and need rest to recuperate.
- Bring a small gift such as a card, newspaper, magazine, flowers, book of short stories or puzzles. If you bring balloons, they should be Mylar rather than latex. Latex can cause allergic reactions and are choking risks for children.
- Have a positive attitude and have non-stressful conversations. Don’t be afraid to sit in silence. LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN!
- Turn off or mute your cell phone. Leave the room if you need to make or take a call. Also leave the room if a doctor or provider arrives to examine or talk to a patient unless you are a parent of a child, spouse or official advocate or are asked to stay by the patient.
- Let the patient control the visit.
- Don’t enter a patient room if you have symptoms that could be contagious.
- Don’t take young children with you unless absolutely necessary or requested by the patient and allowed by the hospital.
- Don’t take food for the patient unless the patient is allowed to have it. Do not eat in front of a patient who cannot eat.
- Don’t visit if your presence will cause stress or anxiety. But do not stay home because you assume your friend or loved one prefers you do not visit. ASK!
- Don’t smoke before or during your visit. Hospitals are non-smoking buildings.
- Don’t wake a sleeping patient as rest is needed. You can leave a card or note to tell them you care.
- Don’t wear strong perfume, scented hair spray or skin products as many patients are allergic or irritated by aromas when ill.
- Don’t eat the patient’s food or drink, use the patient’s toilet, sit on the patient’s bed or put your feet on the bed. These “don’ts” may seem obvious but have been done and should not be done.
- Don’t have too many people visit at once as it can overwhelm patients. There are often restrictions as to number of visitors at one time.
A good visit should make you and the patient feel loved and comfortable. It is an act of kindness that is long remembered.