Expectations on the Caregiver While the Patient Is In the Hospital

Last updated: August 2017

As a co-caregivers of a loved one with COPD, we decided pretty early on that we did not want my mother to be alone for an extended time in the hospital.  It was just the way that we cared for mom.  I wanted to be the one to help her to the bathroom, and I wanted to know for sure that when she needed someone to help, she could get it.  It is not the nurses’ fault that they are sometimes understaffed or there is a crisis down the hall, but I also wanted to make sure that my mom's needs were met.

As a family, you should come to an agreement on what is expected of each family member.  For us, we wanted someone with mom around the clock.  You may only be able to be there during the evening or the morning.  Maybe your patient does not want you there during the night, hoping that you will be able to get some rest.  This is just something that you all should agree on.

Sometimes the expectations that you set will change.  The expectations that I had on myself changed when my children came along.  Jobs come and go.  Honestly I would have gladly lost a job to be with my mom, but kids are a priceless gift.  Mom made it clear to me on several occasions that she did not want me at the hospital because she knew that my kids needed me. However, we do know that she felt more secure when one of us was there.

You should have a list of a few family members, outside of the main caregiver(s) that can stay for a few hours.  This just needs to be someone that the patient trusts, someone capable of being their advocate, if there is a need.  This should also be someone that can keep the atmosphere of the room positive.  It is okay to be very selective of this person.  Sometimes the person that you, the caregiver, is comfortable with, is not someone that the patient is comfortable with.

Understand that this is a very private time for the one you love.  There may be times that a bedside commode or bed pan is needed.  There will be blood draws, possibly medication changes and physical therapy, so you see, the person that you all choose to be a back-up needs to be able to take those situations in stride.

There are also expectations for how you will take care of yourself while the one you love is in the hospital.  Your patient does not want you to get sick because you are not taking care of yourself.  You must eat and get as much rest as possible.  Both of these seem easy enough until you actually try to do them in the setting of a hospital.  Sleep is hard to come by during a hospital stay.  Many times the nurses are coming by every two hours at night.  Going to the cafeteria can be a way to get a few minutes to yourself.  Just make sure that you actually get some nutrition.

Chances are that your patient knows the expectations that you have placed on yourself.  You just need to understand what they really expect of you during this time.  Once you come to an agreement, the guesswork is gone, and both of you can concentrate on getting the one you love well again.

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