What are the dos and don'ts of visiting friends in the hospital, rehab centers and nursing homes? Based on the experience with my parents, I have a few guidelines that I follow in terms of visitation of friends and their family in these group situations. My goal is to support my friends during a difficult period but at the same time I don't want to intrude and cause additional stress.
First, hospitals; I have learned that given today's healthcare structure, when someone is in the hospital, they are really sick or incapacitated. Insurance companies view hospitals as high cost solutions to a medical problem so they will move a patient out to an intermediate facility as soon as the patient is stable or send them home. If someone is in the hospital it is because they need a serious level of care so I would say don't visit. If you want to do something send a card, flowers or make a casserole for family members on hospital duty but don't immediately head off to the hospital. If you feel a real need to visit, call and ask a family member if the patient is receiving visitors. There are various reason that they may ask you to wait until the patient gets home before planning a visit.
If you do go, visit briefly with the patient but take longer and more detailed conversations with family members to the waiting room. Lastly, and this happened to our family twice, once with our father and once with our mother. If the doctor comes into see the patient and their family while you are there, excuse yourself by saying you will be in the waiting room. In this situation, curiosity can get the best of us but respect the patient's right to privacy. If the patient or family has no objections to you being in the room they will tell you.
Second, rehabilitation centers: when it comes to rehab centers, I would suggest give the patient a day or two to get acclimated before making a visit. The slogan of my mother's rehab centers was, "We work you out then kick you out". This was their upbeat approach to helping my mother recover from her stroke and get back home. The workout was hard and tiring but necessary to helping her gain as much strength and coordination as possible so she could return home. As a result by the end of the day she was worn out...a couple of times I found her asleep sitting up in her chair. Also she had workout sessions morning and afternoon taking up most of the day. If in doubt as to whether a visit is appropriate or not, talk to a family member to get the lay of the land or if you decide to drop by, do so after 4:00 in the afternoon and make the visit quick.
Third, nursing homes: except in rare situations, when someone moves into a nursing home it is permanent. The nursing home is now their new residence. So by all means visit. People dread the thought of being "put" into a nursing home because they are afraid of being abandoned and forgotten. Just like someone's home, nursing homes operate on a schedule so I would build your visits around the meal schedule. Visits anytime after 9:00 in the morning and before 9:00 in the evening will work in most facilities. Lunch is served around noon and dinner between 5:00 and 6:00. The places I have visited will allow visitors to have lunch or dinner with the resident if arrangements are made in advance. While the layout of a nursing home can feel very "medical" it is still home to the people you care about so feel free to visit regularly.
On Foodie Fridays I am going to write about taking "outside" food into these facilities and share some ideas on foods to share. In the end, we want to offer strength and compassion to those who are ill, injured and recuperating. What are your guidelines for visitation? How would you want to be treated?