It is understandable to be worried about your loved one, but it is important to take care of yourself. Try to rest as often as you can and try to sleep at night rather than in the day. Remember to eat sensibly as well. You will need your strength.
It is important to remember that it is OK to be distressed by having a relative in Intensive Care. Having a loved one in Intensive Care is one of the most traumatic experiences that many people will go through. It is very common for relatives of patients to suffer from depression or post-traumatic stress. There are a range of things you can do and services you can use that can help you get through this difficult experience.
Keeping a diary
Keeping a diary of your relative’s time in ICU can be helpful for both yourself and your relative after they have recovered.
Patients in the ICU often don’t remember a lot of their stay in Intensive Care as they are usually sedated. This can cause psychological problems later in their recovery. Patients can struggle with the “lost” time they missed or fail to realise quite how ill they were. This can make them feel like they aren’t recovering quickly enough.
As a relative visiting a loved one in Intensive Care, it can be hard to notice signs of improvement as patients in the ICU often get better gradually and it is hard to see the changes day by day.
This is where keeping a diary of your relative’s time in the unit can often help. By keeping a diary, you can see the improvements as they get better. This has been found to make it easier for you to cope and recover from the trauma you and your family will have been through.
It can also be difficult to keep track of all of the treatments your loved one has received during their stay in ICU, particularly in such a stressful situation. Keeping a diary can help you keep track of that information.
A diary can also help your relative realise how ill they were, and how much they have progressed whilst they are recovering afterwards.
Studies have shown that keeping a diary can cut the rate of depression and post-traumatic stress in relatives and patients during their recovery after ICU by as much as 50%.
The ICU staff will help you with your diary, they can fill in the medical information and you can put in anything else you want to keep track of.
If you are having any difficulty coping either during or after your relative’s time in ICU, your GP should be able to offer you help. NHS direct can also offer you help and guidance with coping with depression, anxiety or any other difficulty you are experiencing.
Being able to talk to people who have gone through a similar experience can really help you cope with what you’re going through. ICUSteps is a charity set up for patients and relatives recovering after they or a relative have been in Intensive Care. There is an ICUSteps Brighton support group as well as other groups around the country.
The hospital chaplains can offer religious and spiritual support for a variety of faiths. Our chaplain’s is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They are happy to talk to patients and their families both about specific religious matters as well as more general spiritual concerns.