Ask an Expert: Marie Gibson

[Printed from: Barbara McVicker’s Before Things Fall Apart:THE ESSENTIAL WORKBOOK]

Question: “What am I supposed to do when my parent is in the hospital?  Am I still needed?”

Answer: “Most definitely! You are your parent’s most important advocate. Here are nine ways to be a great caregiver in the hospital.”

  1. Take an active part in the healing process! Ask questions and learn as much as you can about the diagnosis, procedures, and recommended medications.
  2. Whenever possible, a familiar caregiver should be in the room with your loved one. Caregivers provide needed support and extra care.
  3. Keep track of the names and contact information for the health professionals that are treating your parent.
  4. Learn the nurses’ names immediately and treat them with respect. Be gracious and show your appreciation for their work!
  5. Remember the “Five Rules of Medication Administration”: right patient, right drug, right amount, right time, and in the right manner. Ask nurses to double-check the patient name, drug name, and dosage—every time they give medication.
  6. Make proper nutrition a priority. Step in and assist Mom or Dad at meal times. Pick up a fork and feed your parent if needed. Caregivers should arrange their schedules to ensure that they are available during meals.
  7. Your motto should be “Cleanliness is the route to healthiness!”  Hospital-acquired bacterial infections are a serious risk to your parent. Everyone who visits your parent must wash their hands with antibacterial soap before touching him or her—including the doctors, nurses, therapists, and phlebotomists. Remember, cleanliness is essential!
  8. Every patient is assigned to a hospital case worker. Contact your case worker through the head floor nurse and schedule a meeting to introduce yourself and your loved one.
  9. During therapy, encourage your parent to comply with the therapists. The harder your parent works, the more he or she will accomplish. At the same time, consider whether your presence improves the situation or distracts from therapy. At times, leaving the room temporarily so that your loved one can focus on the therapist may be helpful.

MARIE GIBSON  is the author of The Caregiver’s Journal. To learn more about the Journal, go to