What to expect when you're visiting someone in the ICU
Published: 21 January 2019
Christine Craik is the national president of the Australian Association of Social Workers, a RMIT lecturer and worked in ICU as a social worker for 10 years. This is her advice for managing the logistical side of having a loved one in ICU:
Drink water: Bring a bottle or flask and find out where the water fountain is for refills. "Drinking water is extremely important because ICUs are really dehydrating places … because of the climate control and the stress to [visitors'] own systems, their own adrenaline," Ms Craik says.
Ask about accommodation: Ms Craik recommends getting a handle on the accommodation available around the hospital, especially if you're from out of town. "Social workers will be able to give people not only a list of local accommodation, but also copies of maps for where they are and transport maps which can be really important."
Enquire about parking: If your loved one is due to have an extended stay in ICU, parking can become a nightmare. "Most hospitals will have concession parking for people that are going to be there for a while. So they need to know to ask … because that will make a huge difference to them."
Manage social media: Social media can be a great way to share updates with friends and extended family. But, Ms Craik points out, it can also be the source of a lot of "misinformation", especially if the patient is a young person. "If [the family] has got a trusted young friend that can take over the social media role and be the spokesperson for the family, and the family feeds them information, that works really well. And it stops crowding in the ICU as well."
Get everything in writing: Visiting ICU is stressful, so Ms Craik recommends that visitors try to get as much information in written form as possible. "You won't remember a third or more of what's been said at the time."