Should You Visit a Loved One in the Hospital?

Question from a friend: My cousin has a surgery coming up, and he’ll be in the hospital for four days. Should I go to the hospital to visit him?

Answer: Well, that depends on several factors. I’m thus answering your question with more questions.

First of all, how close are you to this cousin? Does he have other loved ones who will be providing support for him while he’s in the hospital? Is he expecting you to visit him, or does he need rides to and from the hospital?

Secondly, what type of surgery is he having? Will visitors be restricted to immediate family members because of the severity of the operation? For certain surgeries, he won’t be allowed more than a few visitors and/or visits will need to be brief.

If you are close with him and he isn’t barred from having you visit him at the hospital, I would ask him if he would like you to come by during those four days. When people are ill or recouping, they typically fall into one of two camps.

  1. Some people love to be around others, and the social element helps them to heal.
  2. Others are the complete opposite and prefer to be alone or have as few people around as possible until they feel more like themselves again. 

There’s no right or wrong approach, but if your cousin is the latter type, then wait until he’s recouped.

It’s also possible if your cousin hasn’t spent much time in hospitals, he might not know how he’ll feel and whether or not he will want visitors. In that case, I recommend texting him or whomever will be in the waiting room during his surgery to see if he’s up for a visit. If he is, then ask which day would be best. (He’s likely to be very groggy after anesthesia on the first day and then in more pain on the second day once anesthesia wears off.)

If he isn’t up for visitors, don’t take it personally. Let the primary caregiver know that you’re happy to help however is needed, if you feel comfortable doing so. If not, then tell the primary caregiver that you’re thinking of him and hoping he has a quick recovery. Once he returns home, you can send a card or food to his house, or reach out to him then.

If you do go to the hospital, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Prior to arriving, ask him if you can bring anything. If he’s allowed to eat real food, I guarantee you that there’s something he would rather eat or drink than what the hospital serves. (If the dish is high in sugar or particularly salty or fatty, check with the nurse before giving it to him.)
  • Most hospitals have hand sanitizers on every floor. Before you enter the room, sanitize or wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Don’t stay long, unless your cousin asks you to. Plan on staying between 20 minutes and an hour. If a health care professional comes in while you’re there to examine him, give him a gentle hug, wish him well and leave. If he starts to get drowsy while you’re there, excuse yourself so he can sleep.
  • Be yourself. If he doesn’t look good, you don’t need to say that he does. If you’re not a comedian, you don’t need to tell him jokes to try to make him laugh. Ask open-ended questions to allow him to tell you how he's doing or if he needs anything, and then talk about whatever you normally would with him.
  • Remember that visiting is about his comfort, not yours. You might need to wait to use a public bathroom, you might not have a nice chair to sit in while you’re there, and your cousin isn’t likely to feel or act like himself. Making sure that he is comfortable is your first priority!

Did I miss anything readers?

What's your mode when you're ill or recouping when it comes to visitors?

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