It is a common sight in the intensive care unit. Family members at the bedside, sometimes 24/7. Holding vigil and attentively monitoring each moment of the day for their critically ill/injured loved one. After all, who knows the needs and subtle hints of change of the patient better then close loved ones?
Presence and engagement of loved ones in the care of the critically ill/injured patient is becoming increasingly recognized as a vital aspect of day to day critical care management. Family members are now more than ever included in and consulted during daily rounds. What the medical team can gain from family participation is invaluable.
However, the increased demands placed on family members and loved ones caring for the critically ill can quickly become overwhelming. Altered sleep and eating patterns, displacement from home, disrupted work routines, and the high stress levels that accompany the ICU environment can be too much for some to bear. Family members and loved ones may experience anxiety, depression, complicated grief, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). When this happens it is called PICS-Family or PICS-F.
Burdening my husband and fearing he would lose his health from caring for me, especially when he worked/traveled 10 hours, 5 days each week, was of concern for me...Though his deep weariness was obvious to me, he was clear that he wanted to care for me.
-ICU survivor via Mayo Clinic Connect
Highlighted below are some of the steps that loved ones and family members can take to minimize the negative effects that an ICU environment can have:
All of the above advice is intended to help keep you as healthy as possible while caring for your loved one. The road to recovery from critical illness/injury is often a long one, and you will best meet the needs of your loved one by first meeting your own.
If you are worried that you or a loved one may be experiencing PICS-F, seek out the care of your primary care provider. Bring this information with you. Tell him or her about the surrounding events and identify the specific changes you are noticing in yourself. Caring for yourself is as important as caring for your loved one.
Come back next month when we discuss Post Intensive Care Syndrome and Children.