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Intensive Care Unit (ICU): What You Can Do for Your Loved One

Appoint a family spokesperson to serve as the link between the ICU team and family members. This helps protect your loved one's privacy and saves time for nurses. You can also help make your loved one's family members feel more comfortable. Talk with the nurse to find out what you can do. Your loved one may need rest most of all. And don't forget to take care of yourself, too.

Man talking to healthcare provider.

Providing comfort

Your loved one may seem confused, forgetful, excited, or angry. They may not recognize you. This is common for people in the ICU. It may be due to medicine, new surroundings, or the illness or trauma itself. You can help by reminding them what day and time it is. Talk about pleasant things, such as family events. When they feel better, bring a magazine or newspaper to share. Or put your loved one's favorite music on your cellphone and bring a headset.

Giving personal care

Just being with your loved one is important, but you can also help in other ways. Check with the nurse first about:

  • Brushing or combing your loved one's hair

  • Putting a cool cloth on their forehead

  • Rubbing lotion on their dry skin

  • Bringing older children to visit

Working with the ICU team

Be sure the nurse has the name and phone number of the family spokesperson. When you have questions or concerns, talk with the nurse or the healthcare provider. Studies have shown that frequent family visits decrease a person's anxiety and confusion in the ICU. These visits can make the person feel more secure while they're in the ICU.

Taking care of yourself

Remember, your health is important, too. See what you can do to manage your stress. If your loved one is sleeping, take a break and go for a walk. Or find a peaceful place to sit, and breathe deeply for a few minutes.

Don't forget to eat healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables. When you're tired, rest or nap awhile. And arrange with family members to visit in shifts. That way, everyone can get enough rest.

Online Medical Reviewer: Diane Horowitz MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Louise Cunningham RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2021
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