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HealthSheets™

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

Man talking to healthcare provider.

Appoint a family spokesperson to serve as the link between the ICU team and family members. This helps protect the patient's privacy and saves time for nurses. Also, you can help make your loved ones 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.

Providing comfort

Your loved one may seem confused, forgetful, excited, or angry. He or she 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 him or her what day and time it is. Talk about pleasant things such as family events. When he or she feels better, bring a magazine or newspaper to share. Or put your loved one's favorite music on your cell phone 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 his or her forehead

  • Rubbing lotion on his or her 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 are 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.

© 2000-2018 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.