More than 5.7 million patients are admitted annually to intensive care units in the United States. While the average estimated length of a stay in the ICU is 3.8 days, the recovery that follows it can be much longer. If you have ever supported your loved one during their stay in post-ICU recovery, you know how difficult and demanding it can be. Central Valley Speciality Hospital, a long-term acute care hospital in Modesto California, is focused on individualized patient recovery, by setting specific goals and allowing the patient to regain their independence and reach their full health. Central Valley Speciality Hospital graciously took the time to provide their best advice on how to support your loved ones during their recovery process.
While physical recovery typically occurs within six months of being discharged from the hospital, a recent analysis of 38 studies found that about one-third of all ICU patients, both young and old, developed depressive symptoms that persisted through 12 months of follow-up. Central Valley Speciality Hospital explain that these cognitive, psychosocial, and physical deficits have become known as post-intensive care syndrome, or PICS. Post-intensive syndrome’s range of symptoms is segmented into three distinct categories: physical impairment, cognitive impairment, and psychiatric impairment. Patients who experience post-intensive syndrome can express symptoms from one or all three of the segmented categories. This is a rapidly growing phenomenon in older adults and has the potential to persist for as long as five or more years. Being able to provide your loved one with the support, encouragement and kindness that they need during this difficult time will give them the best opportunity at physical and emotional recovery.
Supporting Loved Ones
One of Central Valley Speciality Hospital’s first suggestions for supporting your loved one in their post-ICU recovery is to speak in a calm and clear manner – you must make sure you do not come off as pitying your loved one and must avoid any tones that sound condescending. While many family members may assume that because their loved one is on a ventilator, they cannot hear you, don’t worry, they can. Try to make short positive statements that offer them support and reassurance. You will set the tone for their post-ICU recovery, so be sure to leave any negative energy or problems at the door when visiting with your loved one. There is no room in the post-ICU recovery for negativity, your loved one will greatly appreciate the positive energy.
Central Valley Speciality Hospital explain that it is important to acknowledge any discomfort that your loved one may be experiencing, and not to minimize it in any way. Creating an open line of communication is crucial to making things more comfortable for them. You may want to consider providing them with a small board to write on, as many patients are able to write just enough to explain what they need. The hospital should provide this, but if not, you can purchase them at a drug or art supply store.
You are the anchor for your loved one, and being able to orient them to their surroundings, like the date and time, will be a huge help to them. You may want to make a sign each day with the date clearly printed on it and place it in the same location every day. You may also want to bring your loved one’s favorite at-home comforts, bringing them books, music, magazines, etc. If they enjoy reading the paper, consider reading them the news every day to connect them to their prior routine. Central Valley Specialty Hospital states that a positive routine is often a major key to success with recovery, it helps to motivate the patient to overcome the struggles of their day and get back on track to normal life.
Primary Communication Point
Another great way to support your loved one is by being their primary communication with the staff. Central Valley Speciality Hospital explains that the staff are there to help and support you, so never be shy to ask about the status of your loved one, or to be afraid asking for suggestions on what would be helpful at the time. It is strongly advised to not discuss any unpleasant subject matters in your loved one’s room, as uncomfortable conversations can bring feelings of negativity and worry.
Central Valley Specialty Hospital’s Final Thoughts
There is no set plan to follow to recover quicker, but there are efforts you can consciously make that will help to motivate your loved one to full recovery. Central Valley Specialty Hospital shares that often times patients will need significant help from their loved ones to overcome their stay in the ICU, and as a loved one it is your responsibility to be available and help them during this process. To best support your loved one, you must understand their recovery process, acknowledge their discomfort, organize their room to reflect their daily life and most cherished belongings, set a routine, and become their primary communication point with the medical staff.