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8 Rules to Follow When You’re Visiting a Loved One in the Hospital


Dealing with the stress and heartache of having a loved one in the hospital can be enough to muddy anyone’s brain, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to break hospital etiquette. Whether you’re visiting with a parent, sibling, or distant in-law, these simple, easy-to-follow rules will not only make your life easier but also the patient’s.

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1. Leave the flowers at home. It’s common to bring flowers to happy occasions like your child’s music recital or graduation, but hospitals are another story. With hundreds of patients who may have life-threatening allergies, it’s better to surprise your loved one with a bouquet once they get home rather than risk causing another patient an allergic reaction or an infection. Hospitals will have a policy about what is and isn’t appropriate to bring, so give them a call before dropping by the room.

*2. Stay at home if you’re sick. * This might sound like a no-brainer, but if you’ve got the sniffles it’s best to stay home. Patients recovering in the hospital have weakened immune systems, so even if you’re almost over your cold, there’s a chance that someone—even your loved one—could find themselves staying longer in the hospital.

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3. Be gentle with yourself and your loved one. Hospitals are stressful and if you find you’re very emotional, excuse yourself and leave the room. Whoever you are visiting will certainly be touched that you made the effort to come, but watching you stress out will only make them more anxious. Any emotions you’re feeling are certainly valid, but an environment of tension and worry won’t help the patient get better.

4. Don’t overstay your welcome. A hospital isn’t a hotel, so as much as you want to spend time with the patient, it’s important to remember they need their own alone time too. Rest during recovery is crucial, so keep in mind just how much time you’re spending in the room.

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Visiting a HospitalGetty Images

5. Respect the roommate. If there’s another person in the hospital room, remember the Golden Rule. Just as you would like some quiet time to chat with your loved one, so too would the family of the roomie.

6. Let the patient do the talking. When the doctor or nurses come in to check on the patient, let them speak. No one knows better how much pain they’re in or what symptoms they’re experiencing than the patient themselves. Of course, no one wants a family member to suffer, but even if you think someone should be asking for more pain medications, you need to acknowledge that pain thresholds are different.

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7. Take personal phone calls outside of the patient’s room. Doctors are bound to discuss important news with you that you’ll then want to communicate to the rest of the family, but be courteous and leave the room first. No one wants to hear annoying beeps and pings every time you get a phone call or text message. You’re there to visit, so make it count!

8. Don’t sit on the bed. It may be tempting to sit on the bed if you’ve run out of empty chairs, but don’t do it! Ask the staff for another chair or just keep standing.

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