You’re standing in front of a hospital vending machine with a handful of quarters and no appetite. This wasn’t how you were planning to spend your week, and it sounds like it might even be longer than that. Exhausted physically — those chairs don’t really double as beds, even though they try — and emotionally, you’re just not sure what to do.
Typically, nobody plans to be in the hospital long-term. Even for planned procedures, surgeries or childbirth, you typically do not plan to have an extended hospital stay. And when you or someone you love finds themselves in the hospital for a longer than the expected stay, it can be terrifying and completely disorienting. And it’s difficult to know what is helpful and what is not. It’s easy to get lost in the swirl of activity, information, and sometimes decision making, and not know what to do next.
First things first: Remember, God is in control. He knew this was coming long before you did. He’s not surprised. He’s not panicking, and He’s with you wherever you go. And He wants you to talk to Him. He is listening to your prayers and cries for help. Pray. God loves you and He will sustain you, no matter what!
There are a few basics when dealing with the world of healthcare: There is no right or wrong way to deal with things; you have a right to your privacy and to your opinion. It’s okay to ask questions; it’s okay to ask for help.
With those basics down, here are some helpful, practical tips for you to use when you find yourself in the whirlwind of an emergency or traumatic event.
Notify your loved one’s employer — Let them know of the situation and how long they may need to be out. There may be paperwork that needs to be completed for medical leave or worker’s compensation. This will help put your loved one’s mind at ease while they’re recovering and even after they come home.
Notify bank and credit card companies — If you know your loved one won’t be using credit cards or debit cards for a while, ask the bank to stop debit card transactions. If there aren’t any ongoing charges to a credit card, ask the credit card companies to deny charges.
Cancel appointments — Notify any other doctors, dentists, gyms, hairdressers, and other appointments they may have scheduled so they can be cancelled or postponed.
Pick up the mail — Ask neighbors or another family member to pick up mail or go to the post office to put it on hold. Let the neighbors know what’s up, too, so they can keep an eye on any suspicious activity near the house or on the property.
Cell phone — If your loved one is unable to use the cell phone, call the cell phone company and ask to put the phone on hold until it can be used it again.
Post updates on social media — Keep your loved one’s extended family and friends in the loop. Post daily updates to Facebook on medical progress and how they can pray. This will provide a central location for people to get updates and keep you from repeating yourself, and it helps to keep information from being miscommunicated. It’s also a place where people can provide encouragement in a non-intrusive way, and your loved one can see the outpouring of love and support from their friends.
Get a notebook — Write down questions for the doctors and nurses between conferences as well as what they say. (You think you’ll remember, but you won’t!) Be sure to include dates. Plus, if you get moved to a different floor, facility or type of treatment, it will be easier to explain what you’ve been told and keep your facts straight.
Get a guest book — Keep a separate notebook for visitors to sign when when they visit, and use it to record any gifts, flowers, cards, food, etc. you receive so you can send thank you cards later.
Pay bills — Unfortunately, bills still come during the hospital stay. If your loved one doesn’t have bills set up on an automatic schedule, make sure someone they get paid. Either designate someone to bring mail to you so you can handle it or have someone take care of the whole process for you.
Plan for long-term — You may realize you need additional help for after your loved one comes home. If you need to look into rehabilitation centers, ask your family and friends if they have any recommendations. Talk to the therapists and determine what you think will be best for your loved one and family. The hospital should also have resources, and the doctors may have recommendations as well.
Get more help — The United Way is a great community resource. they can help you with finding local agencies to help you with anything from having a wheelchair ramp built to having your home inspected to make sure it is safe for disabilities to finding financial assistance.
Get a journal — Write down your thoughts, frustrations, questions and feelings. It’s cathartic.
File for Family Medical Leave Act — If you’re not sure how long your situation will last, or what kind of ongoing care might be necessary, filing for intermittent FMLA may be your best option.
Designate a receptionist — Ask a friend or family member to take care of phone calls when you don’t want to talk.
Stay healthy — Take any medicines on schedule, eat properly, drink plenty of water, get fresh air and go for a walk. Ask someone to bring you at least one good meal a day and keep fruit, nuts, and protein bars available to snack on.
Get out — Leave the hospital periodically, even if it’s just to walk around the block, go for short drive, pick up supplies, go shopping or grab a bite to eat. A change of scenery helps mentally and emotionally.
Take time to be alone and don’t feel guilty!
PRAY — Prayer is the most important thing. Your loved one is in the hands of great, competent people who have been medically trained, but ultimately they are in God’s hands. He is the One who heals! Spend time with God, ask others to pray through your storm, and count your blessings — they are many!
The first part of Wendi Brake’s story was originally told in AUTHENTIK magazine. Wendi’s daughter wasn’t expected to live through a dangerous car accident and spent over seven weeks in a coma. She then spent four months at Shepherd Center rehabilitation facility in Atlanta, Georgia. Read her story, “That Phone Call That No One Wants” here.