Patients & Families

Coping after critical care

Going back to the ward

Anybody who has been unwell enough to require critical care input will take a while to return to normal levels of activities, and to cope with the psychological aftermath of having been so ill.

For some patients this is a relatively quick process but for others it can be a challenging and difficult time, particularly if they have been extremely ill, ill for a long time, or are older and have co-existing medical problems that delay recovery.

The main problems that patients encounter are physical and psychological – click on either of these to find out more.

There can also be significant social changes after a stay in ICU, including for loved ones who may become carers.  Help can be found from many sources, including Citizens Advice (link)

These issues are being increasingly understood and recognition of the problem is the first and most important step in getting help.

The facilities available will vary by hospital, some have critical care follow-up clinics that can co-ordinate the support services a specific patient needs, and in other cases the GP will be pivotal to arranging assistance. Units without follow-up clinics are happy to arrange ad-hoc meetings with past patients and families to offer assistance with dealing with the problems of recovery.

Family, friends and carers

Family, friends and carers are also affected by the patient’s critical illness and can take time to get back to normal. They can suffer anxiety that the same illness might happen again, frustration and resentment at what the patient put them through, and at their slow recovery. Financial hardship is also a source of worry if the income to the household has been affected by the patient’s or their carer’s inability to work. These are difficult emotions for the family to face up to but help is available for them too, either from their GP or critical care follow-up clinics if available.

The same is also true for those bereaved after someone dies in the ICU, and it is important they know what resources are there to help them at this sad and difficult time.