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Intensive Care Unit (ICU): What You Can Do for Your Loved One

Appoint a family spokesperson to serve as the link between the ICU team and family members. This helps protect the patient's privacy and saves time for nurses. Also, you can help make your loved ones feel more comfortable. Talk with the nurse to find out what you can do. Your loved one may need rest most of all. And don't forget to take care of yourself, too.

Girl lying in hospital bed with ventilation tube in mouth. Man is holding girl's hand. Health care provider is adjusting ventilator.

Providing Comfort

Your loved one may seem confused, forgetful, excited, or angry. He or she may not recognize you. This is common in ICU patients. It may be due to medication, new surroundings, or the illness or trauma itself. You can help by reminding him or her what day and time it is. Talk about pleasant things such as family events. When he or she feels better, bring a magazine or newspaper to share. Or bring a tape of favorite music plus a headset.

Giving Personal Care

Just being with your loved one is important, but you can also help in other ways. Check with the nurse first about:

  • Brushing or combing your loved one's hair

  • Putting a cool cloth on his or her forehead

  • Rubbing lotion on his or her dry skin

Working with the ICU Team

Be sure the nurse has the name and phone number of the family spokesperson. When you have questions or concerns, talk with the nurse or the doctor.

Taking Care of Yourself

Remember, your health is important too. See what you can do to manage your stress. If your loved one is sleeping, take a break and go for a walk. Or find a peaceful place to sit, and breathe deeply for a few minutes.

Don't forget to eat healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables. When you're tired, rest or nap awhile. And arrange with family members to visit in shifts. That way, everyone can get enough rest.

 

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