By in Health & Fitness

Recovery from a Serious Illness

When a loved one is seriously ill and is admitted to the hospital's intensive care unit, the hardest part for family and friends is waiting. Doctors need time to figure out exactly what is wrong, treatments take time to work, and even when everything goes right it can take a long time before the patient turns the corner towards a full recovery.

But once he does, the hard part is over for loved ones. Being able to see him open his eyes once more, respond when spoken to, or sit up in bed and talk even briefly is a huge relief. To family and friends, the person is so much improved. A weight is lifted from their shoulders, and they can breathe easy again.

Impact of Hospitalization

But for the individual who has been ill, there is still a very long road to recovery. And the losses may be a lot more obvious than any gains made since being admitted to hospital. A lengthy illness leaves a person weak, and both the illness and the life-saving equipment used in the intensive care unit can limit a person's mobility. A great many things that most of us take for granted will have to be regained, step by tiny step, before the patient is ready to go home and resume normal activities.

  • If the person has been on a ventilator for any period of time it may be difficult to talk at first, or even to swallow. That patient will be watched carefully, even when it comes to swallowing sips of water. And it will take time before her body is ready to process food. In the meantime, there will be liquids and soft foods, and portions will be carefully controlled. It's likely the patient will continue to receive part of his calories through an IV until his body can digest normal meals again.
  • Lying in bed for a prolonged period of time takes its toll on the body. Muscles will be weak, and even small movements may be painful or take a great deal of effort at first. Something as simple as drinking from a glass, using the phone, or going to sit in a chair by the bed can be a challenge.
  • As the patient recovers from the illness, she will tire very easily. Even just sitting and chatting for a few minutes may take a great deal of energy. The patient will likely need frequent rest periods and naps during recovery.

How Loved Ones Can Help

When visiting a loved one at this stage, it's important to remember the person is still recovering. Keep visits short, and be sure to respect any hospital rules about how many people can be in the room at once. Be sure to follow infection control protocols (handwashing, wearing gowns or gloves, etc.) Check with nursing staff before offering the patient any kind of food or drink.

If you want to do something nice for the patient, think creature comforts and stimulating the patient's mind. Being in hospital is boring. And being away from home for a prolonged period of time is made easier when the patient has a few familiar belongings. A favourite robe or pair of slippers might do the trick, or extra pillows and a quilt or afghan from home.

Hospitals generally offer free Wi-Fi, so the patient may want to have her phone, laptop or tablet with her. This will allow her to access social

Book and newspapers may be appreciated, if the patient normally likes to read or do puzzles. Colourful pictures to hang on the wall can help lift the atmosphere – even if it's just pages ripped out of magazines.

Flowers can be nice to look at, but they aren't always practical. If the room is cramped, there may not be a place to set them. So think small arrangements if you want to give flowers, and if you are in doubt as to whether there will be space to accommodate them you might want to wait. Balloons or stuffed animals are a popular alternative to flowers, and these may be more practical if there aren't a lot of flat surfaces in the room. Again, though, if in doubt ask the nursing staff first. No matter how much you want to do something nice for a recovering loved one, you don't want to do anything that would make it harder for the staff to provide him the best possible care.

| | | | |

Image credit: Heart graphic by Gerd Altmann/Pixabay ( CC0 1.0 )

Image Credit » by geralt

You will need an account to comment - feel free to register or login.


Kasman wrote on March 26, 2015, 4:18 PM

All good advice and a reminder that, although the operation may have been a success, it will still be quite a while before the patient is back to anything resembling normality.

MegL wrote on March 26, 2015, 5:13 PM

I think anaesthetics can also make a person feel really tied for quite a long time, never mind any serious illness as well! Useful article, thanks.

Alexandoy wrote on March 26, 2015, 9:55 PM

Hospitalization is a big financial issue that's why the HMO card is getting to be a necessity. Unfortunately, I don't have one for myself although my wife has been provided by their office.

CoralLevang wrote on March 27, 2015, 12:59 AM

Excellent advice. May I also just say how frustrating it is when (a patient) is feared to die, everyone decides they need to visit. You live, and you never hear from them again.

Nar2Reviews wrote on March 27, 2015, 8:10 AM

Some good points here, assuming that all hospitals have good financial backing. Generally the ones in the UK are suffering from being under staffed and poorly run. New doctors and nurses graduating from universities are also facing the same problem as teachers; a lack of jobs.