Contributed by Mary Garrison, RN, Palliative Care – OSF St. Joseph Medical Center
If you’re a Baby Boomer or older, you probably remember a time when hospitals had very strict visiting hours for general medical and surgical patients and even more restricted visiting times for patients in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Rarely was a loved one allowed to stay beyond the 8 or 9 p.m. curfew in the evening and seldom, if ever, was anyone permitted to stay overnight.
To be more accommodating and patient/family-friendly, hospitals have relaxed visiting hours – many eliminating them altogether and some have even furnished patients’ rooms with day beds or comfortable recliners so loved ones can spend the night. While these new arrangements are more accommodating, sometimes they can be counterproductive.
The Importance of a Good Night’s Rest for Family
Because of the need to care for patients all 24 hours of each day, our hospitals can be quite noisy throughout the day and into and throughout the evening making it difficult for families and visitors to get a good night’s rest.
Many times loved ones, who are the patient’s dedicated caregiver when back home, feel obligated to stay overnight at the hospital to keep their loved one company and to support him/her. After a couple days of doing so, the stress starts to show on most loved ones who are typically much more fatigued and not as even-tempered, which strains the communication with the caregiving team in many instances.
Rather than staying overnight, loved ones need to go home to get a good night’s rest (assuming their home is relatively close-by) so that they are fresh in the morning and better able to support the patient.
Hospitals have staff providing care 24 hours each day so patients’ needs can be addressed almost instantly. An added benefit for a loved one sleeping at home is that when the patient is discharged, the loved one will be better prepared physically, at least, to support the patient at home.
A rule of thumb is that when the patient is resting or sleeping, the loved one should be too.