Sometimes it’s hard enough to say what we mean. So what do we do if we have a family member in critical care? Rest assured, communicating is an important part of the healing process for your loved one as well as your family.
Here are 5 tips to help you out:
- Even if your loved one is on a ventilator, he or she will most likely be able to hear you. Speak in a calm, clear manner in a normal tone of voice. There’s no need to speak loudly. Read your family member a favorite poem, book, or prayer. If the staff says it’s OK, you could even play some music.
- Use short, positive statements. Reassure your loved one that you’re there, and that everyone is taking good care of him or her. Help orient your family member to the surroundings by sharing the date, day of week and time of day. Help describe the noises in the room.
- It’s OK to acknowledge that your family member may be experiencing discomfort. You can help by explaining what is going on, “That tube is helping you breath.” Remind your loved one that this is just temporary and helping him or her to get better.
- Don’t ask questions that can’t be answered. Make it simple. Suggesting hand gestures to communicate may be helpful. For example, a thumbs up or thumbs could indicate pain level. A small dry erase board may also be helpful in communicating as well. You could write words that your family member could point to, or possibly your loved one can write a few words as well.
- Human touch goes a long way. Ask the hospital staff first, but holding a hand or touching your family member gently is a great way to express your love and concern.
If you’re unsure about the best way to communicate, don’t hesitate to ask a member of the hospital staff for help. If one way doesn’t seem to be working, there likely will be another way that can be more effective.