Things to do at a hospital?
October 16, 2013 8:45 PM   Subscribe

My SO's grandmother is in the hospital, and he has sort of vowed to stay with her during his free times for as long as she's there (they are very close). He's the kind of person who can't sit still for too long, and is most likely to find himself bored in this kind of setting, especially if he's alone. Besides just being with him, what activity/thing can we do to pass the time/make this ordeal less painful for him?

Of course, this is keeping in mind that we are in a hospital and thus have to be quiet/respectful of the patients' well-being, but it'd also be great if it's something that could cheer him up a bit. He's fairly distraught over her condition (understandably so).
posted by bigasthesky to Grab Bag (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Chess? Card games? Board games? Scrabble? Could he do something like read to his grandmother when you aren't there? If she's well enough, maybe they could make some scrapbooks of family photos together, in which you could also participate. When you say he's alone, do you mean that his grandmother is comatose or not healthy enough to converse or interact?
posted by greta simone at 8:55 PM on October 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

First of all, I am sorry to hear that your SO's grandmother is ill. I'm sure most of the resopnses you will get will have to do with playing cards or games. -There's a reason for this, they're a lot of fun and don't require a lot of resources, they can be done on a small table. I'm guessing you would need a two person game for you and your SO. My wife and I play Dominion -a card game often and I highly recommend it. You can find it at most stores that sell a good selection of Board games.

Good luck, I hope she recovers.
posted by potatoemark at 9:11 PM on October 16, 2013

Tablet or phone games for the win, if he's just hanging out with her.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:40 PM on October 16, 2013

When my Mum was sick we would do crosswords together. In my city the major newspaper has a crossword so we would get that each day. (My grandfather, who at the time was starting to lose his memory, was still by far the strongest contributor to our crossword team!)
posted by Cheese Monster at 9:57 PM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Is there wifi at the hospital? Start watching a new series on Netflix.
posted by MadMadam at 10:56 PM on October 16, 2013

May I respectfully suggest that he rethink his plan to spend *all* his free time there? When you're in hospital people can sort of kill you with kindness. I had people saying proudly "we never left her alone!" While the haggard patient is like, They never left me alone!!!!
posted by tel3path at 1:20 AM on October 17, 2013 [8 favorites]

When my mother in law was in hospital we read all the magazines lying around. It was difficult to concentrate on anything for any length of time, nurses and doctors were coming in and out at random times, other visitors popped by, things happened in the corridor etc that were distracting, etc. Also we didn't want to just ignore her for great lengths of time, but we couldn't interact with her constantly either (she was sleeping a lot, couldn't talk much anyway, etc, etc). So short things like magazine articles were all we could handle.

So I'd suggest a bunch of glossy magazines on some topic he's interested in, or even just fun trashy ones you'd never be caught reading the rest of the time. Also, a book of short stories. A crossword or similar is a great idea because you can do a clue then put it aside for a while if necessary. Something you can pick up and put down easily enough.
posted by shelleycat at 2:12 AM on October 17, 2013

This might be a bit out of left field, but will there be times grandma is sleeping and he'd feel comfortable leaving the room? Are you active types? Sitting in hospital rooms is terribly unhealthy for the healthy. I suggest you try to sneak a little circuit workout into your visits.

I'd investigate what corners of the hospital are quiet and/or rarely used. Ask the staff. Step out every half hour to, say, do 25 jumping jacks on the smoking porch, or 20 push ups in the chapel, lunges in a dead-end hall or yoga in a little-used waiting area. Just pick one to zip away and do, and then 30 minutes later, do another one. Return just a little bit rejuvenated. If granny is cool, let her in on it. She might find it hilarious and something new to talk about.

Frankly I've never once seen a person in a hospital chapel. It's a nice space for quiet stretching and just...quiet from all the noises of the hospital. And well, it's also a chapel if that does something for you.

A speedy walk outside around the whole building would be great too. It may sound a little weird but these things would be energizing, good for him, extend his ability to stay and, if you do them together, you're doing something kinda fun and sometimes silly and it never hurts to lighten up a bit in a hospital--and years from now the memory would bring a chuckle about an otherwise sad time.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 2:31 AM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

How long are his free times? 1-2 hours 2x daily is plenty. Patient will feel attended to over the course of the day and also have time to rest.

During a 1-2 hour period there is plenty to do, especially if your SO is the primary visitor and default advocate for care.

On every visit:
- Tidy room. Remove garbage and accumulated items around bed. Organize cards/magazines/unused items, either take unneeded items home or store in supplied storage facility (perhaps small closet/drawers).
- Inquire on status of treatment. Did she see the doctor or a nurse? What did this person say? Is she taking her medications or does she have new ones? Is her pain under control? Does she have a treatment plan? Is the treatment plan being followed? Facilitate contact with nurses or doctors if there are unmet needs.
- Personal care as needed. Either remind to apply items such as lip balm, moisturizer or assist with application. Ensure hair is combed and teeth are brushed. Ask if patient would like to bathe and assist or facilitate bathing.
- Assist patient in changing clothing as needed (socks, gown, etc). Provide items such as hat or robe. Take dirty clothing out for laundry and replace with fresh items.
- Walk with patient around ward or outside if patient is able. 20 minutes. It's a slow walk when you're shuffling with an IV pole. You won't go far. It doesn't matter.
- Refresh water, tea, other items before leaving. Ensure bed is in comfortable position and patient is within reach of nurse call bell. Make sure there are enough pillows, blankets and all potentially desired items are within easy reach.
- Ask if patient has sufficient reading materials/other materials for her time alone. Would she like food from outside? Obtain requested items as needed, bring to next visit.

As time permits:
- Bring consumable item from outside world and consume it (good tea is fine, if patient is just on clear fluids)
- Bring daily paper to room, read it (out loud or quietly).
- Send notes/updates to interested friends and family via email in room if there is a data connection. Read replies to patient.
- Bring photo albums or show photos on phone to patient.
- If patient can sit in common room, cafeteria, outside, etc for these activities so much the better.

Over time you will figure out how to time a morning visit. Learn when morning rounds are. If they're consistent show on time and advocate. However the rounds may vary so it might help to time visit after last possible end time for rounds to get patient summary of the daily news while it is fresh. Also, a hospital will generally have its own set routine on when nurses perform activities such as change dressings, change beds, perform bloodwork, etc. Leave the hospital during these times.

Evening visit is easier to time. It should terminate around the end of visiting hours (8 PM).

At two shorter visits a day it is hard to get bored. Good luck.
posted by crazycanuck at 4:29 AM on October 17, 2013 [6 favorites]

I should add that there is absolutely no need to be in the hospital for more involved procedures including surgery or MRI. You can come back to hospital after these procedures have finished.
posted by crazycanuck at 4:34 AM on October 17, 2013

May I respectfully suggest that he rethink his plan to spend *all* his free time there? When you're in hospital people can sort of kill you with kindness. I had people saying proudly "we never left her alone!" While the haggard patient is like, They never left me alone!!!!

There is definitely some truth to this, but the flip side is that given how stretched thin the staffing in many hospitals is, having a responsible adult around can prevent some real problems. As an anecdote: when my daughter was in the hospital overnight a few years ago a respiratory therapist came in to give her a nebulizer treatment for her breathing. The problem was that she was not in there for breathing problems and has never had asthma or anything like it. If I had not been there to intervene not only would she have gotten an unnecessary treatment, but the patient who needed it would not have gotten it. My mother can tell a similar story about a friend she stayed with after hip surgery (and in her case the potential for patient harm was actually pretty significant). So having a family member or close friend there as much as possible can be very good. Depending on what is going on with the patient (how mobile they are, what dietary restrictions there are, and so on) having someone to do little things like get drinks or help the patient go to the bathroom without waiting on the nurse is very helpful.

Having said that, the answer I quoted is worth noting in that if you are with someone in the hospital you don't need to keep them entertained the whole time. They may need a lot of rest and keeping yourself occupied without bothering them is key. As mentioned above many (most?) hospitals now have wifi, so a laptop or tablet is great. Just gettting out of the room and walking around is good too. Many hospitals have libraries for patients and families that make a good place to get out of the room for a while. Crazycanuck has a bunch of good suggestions as well.
posted by TedW at 5:17 AM on October 17, 2013

Let me first say, if this is a comfort measures situation, then my condolences, and secondly, he should do as he wants almost certainly.

If it is a more routine situation, then the following applies: I just recently spent two days in the hospital, and while I was happy to have a friend visit and my husband visit and would have been thrilled if my husband had been able to bring the kids, I was also super exhausted all the time because every time I'd fall asleep, someone would need something from me.

"Time for vitals!"
"Time to draw blood!"
"Time to change your IV bag!"
"Time to take your meal order!"

Every single damn time I'd finally get to sleep, I'd get woken up by hospital staff. There was no rest in the hospital. I really just wanted to sleep and be left alone after a point. So my husband visiting for two or three hours was great. My friend visiting for 20 minutes was perfect. More than that drove me nuts. In fact, one of my room mates in the hospital asked her husband not to come at all for the three days she was there because she just wanted to sleep. "When you've been married 48 years, you'll understand. I don't want him here. It's too busy, and I want to close my eyes. He knows I love him."

So, he should really make sure his being there is because she wants him there and not because he wants to be there. This isn't to say he shouldn't visit, but, like, half an hour/day is more than enough.
posted by zizzle at 5:56 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

My grandparents and I used to watch game shows together - the kind I'd never watch on my own, but we'd guess the answers along with the contestants and we surprised each other with what we knew. Since hospital rooms can be so tv-focused, that's one idea.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:25 AM on October 17, 2013

Maybe it would be fun to do some interviews with her recording stories, family histories etc. It would be something easy to stop and start as needed for interruptions and rest time.
posted by maxg94 at 6:32 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

This would depend a lot on his personality type, but my go-to is knitting. If he's at all interested, you could learn together, and at the end of the experience have either a nice gift for his grandmother or a tangible reminder of how much he loves/d her. And knitting has manly cred: Soldiers knitted, as do Misha Collins and many other manly type men.
posted by MeghanC at 7:17 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Is grandmom in a mindset or condition where a visit from one of those comfort animals would help? When I was in the hospital I would have killed to have a comfort dog come in and hang out with me and get some pets. Talk to the social worker at the hospital and see if this is possible if it is something she would enjoy.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:12 AM on October 17, 2013

Knitting or crocheting is a great way to pass the time. If his grandma knows how, she can supervise.

He can have friends and family who are not able to visit send him photos and messages to show his grandmother.

Make sure she has everything she needs--robe, slippers, socks, blankets. Bring in new books/magazines if she reads. Bring in favorite snacks or drinks if she can have them. Depending on her condition and personality, favorite skincare products. (My great-grandma who is in her 90s and was hospitalized last year wanted to know if someone could do her hair for her and wanted a manicure).

I agree with those above me that his grandmother might not want company all the time, however I know that there are definitely people who DO want visitors all the time. When my great-grandmother was hospitalized last year, she became terrified of being alone and was only able to sleep if someone was with her. Everyone is different.
posted by inertia at 12:25 PM on October 17, 2013

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