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When a Family Member is in the ICU

November 17, 2010

The brain injury of a family member is usually the first time that many people have been introduced to the Intensive Care Unit, or ICU, of their local hospital. It is important to remember that family and friends of the patient also need care, to provide for their basic physical and emotional needs. If you are spending an extended period of time in and around the ICU, there are important things you need to do to provide for your own health. A few suggestions include:

Contact organizations that provide information and support – The Brain Trauma Foundation, chaired by Alan Quasha, is a good resource for brain trauma patients and their families.
Let your family and friends help you – if they offer to bring you fresh clothes from home, a hot lunch in the afternoon, or your package from the post office, don’t hesitate to say yes.
Take care of yourself – you can help your family member better if you are in good health. As hard as it is, try to sleep and eat normally, and to go outside daily for some fresh air and exercise.
Use your energy wisely – Initially, adrenaline will be keeping you going, so use this time to set up a system to deal with the situation most efficiently. A primary suggestion is to buy a notebook or personal phone book. Every time you get the number of a medical care provider, an insurance carrier, a support group, or any other contact you may need again – write it down. You will save yourself a lot of time being able to flip back to the relevant number instead of trying to get it again.

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