Contributed by Nathan McVeigh
While some caregivers fill their role over many years for a small number of people, others can fill the role in other valuable ways. In fact, there are many ways you can provide care for people in 15 minutes or less. Making hospital visits is a great option either for gaining valuable experience in the health industry or for the pure joy it brings. Here are five ways you can make the most of hospital visiting hours.
- Bring Something
I’ve been on both sides of hospital visiting hours. I’ve seen my family in the hospital for different reasons and other times my friends were there to see me. In both cases, I felt the most joy and gratitude when someone brought something to us or when I brought something to someone.
For me, it wasn’t so much about the gift, but more about how the gift met a certain need. In one case, people from our church made the most of hospital visiting hours when they brought us food. Bringing food into the hospital room was particularly nice because it allowed us to stay with the patient and avoid any hospital cafeteria sludge. If visiting children, bringing inexpensive stuffed animals is a way to combat loneliness in a foreign place.
The gesture of bringing something to the hospital, whether it be food, a card, flowers or a special item from home shows that people are thinking about the patient. Other potential gifts that make a difference in the patient’s hospital stay might be a pair of cozy socks, a pillow case from home, a hand-written card or even a batch of well-wishes from the community. Finally, combine all these ideas together and you’ve got care packages. Who doesn’t love a well thought out care package?
As a caregiver, be sure to check with the hospital’s rules about bringing items. Some institutions will allow you to bring in decorations for patient rooms within certain limits, which could be another fun activity to enjoy during hospital visiting hours.
- Provide Something
When someone stays in the hospital for an extended amount of time, they can develop needs that most people take for granted. For example, when you start to feel lonely you get together with your friends. People who stay in the hospital are only on the receiving end, so they simply can’t do that.
So what can you provide? If you’re a good listener, simply listening to them is one way to make the time you spend together more enjoyable (for you and for them). If you are a go-getter, you might be the right person to get the patient a new hospital gown or request a new room with a view. Take into account what your personal strengths may be and incorporate that into providing something meaningful during hospital visiting hours.
It’s important to note that the patient you are visiting might not ask you for anything even if they are in need. The list of what you can provide is endless, so be on the lookout for what the patient needs from you even if they’re too humble to ask you for it.
- Play Something
It’s very likely that the patient’s hospital room won’t have the capability to access their favorite forms of entertainment: music, TV shows, or games. Consider bringing your tablet or smartphone with you so they can listen to music or watch a favorite episode that way. It’s also a good way to access on demand TV shows and movies if you subscribe to Netflix or something similar. A mobile hot spot or alternative device that enables an Internet connection will give them the ability to play games, too. Finding a way to make some of these things accessible will make your hospital visiting hours that much better.
If you don’t have a tablet, smartphone, or laptop, consider getting a portable DVD player. Even a cheap deck of cards can be the highlight of someone’s day.
- Learn something
If you subscribe to magazines and/or have a lot of old editions laying around the house, bring a stack to the hospital with you. If you don’t subscribe to any publications, ask friends, family, and neighbors for their old copies.
While reading doesn’t seem to be the most strenuous activity, sometimes people in the hospital are very tired and weak. Having someone read to them is an old school way to bonding with someone and is very much appreciated by patients. You can bring novels, short stories, poems, historical articles, or anything else to read. Choose a genre or article that you’ll both enjoy so the patient knows you are making the most of the hospital visiting hours.
Finally, don’t limit yourself to reading. There are plenty of safe, indoor, and informative games you can do in a tight space. Use your imagination or look to the Internet for great ideas.
- Discuss Something
Again, be sure that you provide care for people in ways they are physically able to handle. If someone is in a talkative mood, you can provide them with a good conversation during hospital visiting hours (if you’re a talker). If you’re not a talker, there are ways to be a good conversationalist. One good way is to find a list of questions to ask, so you can go into hospital visiting hours prepared. Of course, it’s not meant to be an interview, but rather an ice-breaker to get things started.
When my wife and I were dating, I bought a small little plastic case full of little pieces of card stock that had questions on them. We spent a lot of time together discussing our opinions, dreams, and wishes by using those cards. You can find them in a lot of souvenir shops in addition to online. If you’re still at a loss for what to say, consider these ideas for what to say to a friend after surgery.
The bottom line is that there are plenty of ways to have fun during hospital visiting hours. You may not be able to control what the patient is physically capable of doing, but you can control your options by choosing the one that works best for them.