As a caregiver, I was fortunate in that my employer allowed me to stay by my wife’s side throughout her medical ordeal. This included frequent and lengthy day and night stays in one or more hospitals.
Not surprisingly, one of the greatest challenges I faced was how to successfully combat the never-ending struggle known as “intense boredom.”
In essence, it’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you want to be with your loved one. On the other hand, you know there is little to do during the day, especially if your patient is sleeping more often than not. With that in mind, here are some suggestions that worked for me, and a few things to consider when selecting your techniques for keeping the nerve-racking monotony at bay.
How To Defeat Intense Boredom:
- Learn your surroundings: Become familiar with the hospital. Begin with the basics, such as the location of the public restrooms. You will need this information in the event your in-room bathroom is occupied by the patient or your loved one has a roommate that is using it. Learn the location of the cafeteria, vending machines, gift shop and, if they have them, on-floor pantries or kitchenettes.
- Learn the tricks of the trade: Get to know and become friendly with the nurses, the nurse techs, and the nursing supervisor. One of the first questions I asked them was their advice. My standard question for each person I encountered was, “If I were here for the next 6 weeks, what would I know then that I don’t know now.” This question was also asked of doctors, other caregivers, patients, cafeteria workers, security guards and anyone else I spoke with. The amount of information gathered by just being friendly was extremely valuable.
- Bring food provisions from home: Pouring money into vending machines can add up quickly. The same is true with buying all your food from the cafeteria. Not all cafeterias are open during the hours you may crave a snack or drink. Have storage bags available, along with a marker to identify leftovers as yours if they have a refrigerator on the floor that is available to patients and caregivers. If you know the staff on the floor you will be assigned, make sure to bring some of their favorite food. Your kindness and generosity will be repaid.
***Warning:*** Try not to overeat out of boredom. Without much to do, many turn to food when they are not actually hungry. Gaining weight due to poor eating habits and a lack of opportunity to burn calories can become an issue for some.
- Stay Busy:Many hospitals are modernizing their amenities. Flat screen televisions with clear pictures are replacing the more antiquated versions. Most laptop computers can play DVD’s and video games. If you don’t have a laptop, a DVD player is no longer expensive. Puzzles, games, surfing the Internet, reading books and magazines, finding time to work on hobbies (writing, knitting, drawing) are valuable alternatives to staring at the TV or out into the corridor.Laugh, have fun, and stay busy together!
***Warning:*** If your headphones are not kept on a lower volume, the possibility exists that the patient may need your assistance and you might never hear them. In some cases, this could be frustrating to your loved one. They may be asking you a question and you are unable to answer since you could not hear them. The danger is that they may need you and even though you are only feet away, you may as well not been in the room at all! The result is the same.
- Exercise: Exercise is important. It energizes you both physically and mentally. If you are a runner, use your vehicle to gain familiarity with your surroundings. Your odometer will come in handy in helping you determine how far you wish to run. The same is true for distance walkers. If it’s raining, consider the long, expansive hallways of the hospitals or the stairwells (for walking, not running). Allow for 30 to 45 minutes of heart-elevating exercise. Obviously there is little room for exercise equipment, but calisthenics and other strengthening exercises are possible with some creativity and ingenuity.
- Laugh and have fun: Do fun things. Entertaining others; whether it’s your patient, the doctors, nurses or anyone else entering your room. My wife wanted to know about each person, no matter what they did. She asked about family, friends, what made them happy, and not surprisingly, not a single person objected to her questions. Even the most negative of individuals, and there were a few, couldn’t help but fall in love with her. All she did was show compassion and that she cared, even though she was in pain and discomfort most of the time.
Extended stays in hospital are rarely fun. If you make the most of it, you will find time goes by quicker than you think.