What family and friends can expect
It is often the family who has a more traumatic time when their loved one is admitted to critical care than the patient. The staff will help the family through this, both by explaining things directly and with leaflets to give families more information.
Waiting at the beginning
If the admission is an emergency it can come as quite a shock to the family, particular if the illness or injury is sudden, and they have had no time to prepare. In order to treat the patient as quickly and fully as possible the family may have to wait for some time, often over an hour, before they can see their loved one and this can be frightening and frustrating. Rest assured that this time is vital for the patient, that the team know you are waiting, and someone will keep you posted as frequently as they can.
The first visit
When you visit for the first time it can be quite a shock, as the patient is asleep with lots of tubes and drips attaching them to the surrounding equipment, and often they look puffy if they have had a lot of fluid into their system. Rings might need to be removed from swollen fingers and kept safely. If possible the nurse and doctor will talk with you before you visit to update you about the patient’s condition, find out any more information required, and prepare you for what to expect. Even so it can be upsetting at first.
It is important to know that is ok to get close, touch the patient and talk to them; the staff will look after the equipment. With time you get used to it, and staff are always happy to let relatives help with caring for the patient. Even when unconscious it is good to talk to the patient, reassuring them and letting them know you are there. Staff do the same. It is vital to maintain an unconscious person’s dignity at all times as they are unable to do this for themselves.
All hospital staff are keen to avoid patients getting a hospital acquired infection, and the critical care areas even more so, as their patients’ immune systems are weakened by their illness and they are more susceptible to infection. The staff will keep you right about using hand gels, washing your hands, and wearing protective equipment such as aprons or masks. If you feel unwell yourself it may be best not to visit.