If you live far away, work, have small children or have other responsibilities, you may not be able to spend as much time in the hospital with your spouse as you would like. Some hospitals are more understanding than others about the need for a family member or close friend to be with the patient as much as possible. Some hospitals still have official visiting hours that they will try to make even spouses follow, but thankfully, many cancer wards will bend the rules on visiting hours.
How to deal
You will probably also find that there is a time of day å often first thing in the morning å when the doctors ËroundÓ, or go to see their patients, often with many residents in tow. They will probably either heavily encourage, if not require, that all visitors leave during that 1-2 hour window. This may be a good time for you to go catch up on any important phone calls, make arrangements for discharge, make follow-up appointments, or just simply take a walk and get something to eat.
Overnight stays can be tricky. Some hospitals discourage even spouses from staying overnight. You may need to go home at night if you have small children you must care for, and you cannot get a babysitter. Or å though this may sound selfish at first glance å your spouseÁs hospital time may be your best chance for a good nightÁs rest for yourself! Additionally, you should ask yourself these questions:
There are some good reasons to sleep elsewhere, whether at home or at a nearby friendÁs home, when your spouse is in the hospital. First of all, you probably will not get much more sleep than your spouse will. The nurses and other staff will have to come in frequently for IV checks, pill administration, vital-sign readings, etc. Some will try not to disturb the patients and family staying with them; others will not concern themselves if they wake you up. Remember that you also need sleep to deal with the stress of this situation, and you will not be able to effectively advocate for your spouse if youÁre exhausted, particularly during an extended hospital stay.
Karen, a YCS board member, submitted the following experience about her husband Mark:
I was with Mark as much as I could manage during the days when he was in the hospital. I could monitor what drugs they were giving him, make sure he was eating, get things for him, ask questions, and generally keep his spirits up. The nurses commented on how Mark slept far better when I was in the room with him than at any other time. It reassured him just to know that I was there and wouldnÁt go further than the bathroom unless I told him first.
I would usually be in the hospital with him for most of the day between 9:30-10 a.m. and anywhere from 8 p.m. - 1 a.m. depending on what was going on. The hospitals where Mark stayed overnight were about an hour away in typical traffic å I was not about to go that far away from him every single day. Family friends of my in-laws who lived a short walk away had an extra bedroom, and they graciously offered to let me stay with them during MarkÁs hospital stays. They not only gave me somewhere to sleep and shower, but they also were wonderful about letting me unload at the end of a long day at the hospital å I will be forever grateful to them for that.
I would sleep like I was in some kind of coma most nights. It was the only time when I could sleep deeply, since I didnÁt have to worry about being on alert for a sign that Mark was having trouble in bed beside me. But I still had my cell phone next to my head every night in case Mark needed me, and he also had the number of the couple I was staying with. Plus, I made sure the nurses had my cell phone number as well, in case anything happened.