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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

(Page 3 of 4)  

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 to occur.


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.

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