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5 Things You Need to Know
When Your Loved One is in ICU
By Susan Montminy, MSN, RN and Meredith Dodge, MSN, RN
Multi-disciplinary family meetings help
to prevent these mixed messages. At these
meetings, all the consulting doctors, the patientís
primary doctor, nurses, social workers, clergy, and
other team members are in the room with the family.
Instead of hearing one doctorís views on the patientís
status, the family hears from everyone and leaves with a
better understanding of how the patient currently is and
the expected outcome. Come with your list of
questions and write down the answers. Many times,
the questions are answered, but families forget because
of the stress of the situation. Do not be afraid
to ask for explanations if you do not understand the
ďmedical jargon.Ē At the conclusion of the family
meeting, repeat back what you heard so that the team can
make sure that you understand and are aware of what the
next steps will be.
Lying in a bed for 90 - 100% of the day
can be very uncomfortable. Add in the different
tubes, drains, procedures, exams, and the injuries which
lead to the ICU just compounds the discomfort and pain.
It is common for patients to receive scheduled or
continuous pain and sedation medications while in the
ICU. If your loved one appears or indicates they are
uncomfortable, speak up. You know him/her better
than anyone else. Be their voice.
Many times when being weaned from the
ventilator, these medications are decreased so the
patient is more awake and able to participate in this
process. This can be uncomfortable. It is
very important to collaborate with the healthcare team
to maintain comfort while allowing this weaning process
The importance of sleep while your loved
one is in the ICU cannot be stressed enough.
Unless he/she is very unstable, you should make a point
to sleep every night (in your own bed if at all
possible). You cannot support your loved one if
exhausted. Let the nurse know you are going home
for the night and to call you if there are any changes.
Remember, the intensive care patient to nurse ratio is
normally 2 patients to every 1 nurse. Your family
member will have close observation and excellent nursing
care. This is the safest place in the hospital for
your loved one. Donít be a martyr.
It is completely okay for you to go home
and allow your loved one to rest. Even though they are
the patient, if they are awake, they may feel as if they
have to entertain you while you are visiting them. They
may feel the need to talk to you and to put on a happy
face; when you leave, you are giving the patient
permission to rest.