How to Support Solo Patients

Sometimes you can’t be there, but it doesn’t mean you don’t care


When your loved one needs a hospital stay and you can’t be there, call the nurse’s station every day at the same time for an update.

  • The best time is 2-5pm: for ICU care, call 2x day at 7am and 7pm
  • Try to talk to the same nurse each time.
  • Wrap up each call with: “I’ll call again tomorrow at the same time.” S/he will then be prepared to share an update with you.
  • Wrap up each call with a sincere thanks.
  • NOTE: If you can’t connect with nursing staff, reach out to others for daily updates. Case managers, the hospitalist,  or a primary care doctor are all great resources.

Be mindful of how busy nurses are: be sure to express your respect and empathy for all their daily challenges. Try asking or saying:

  • How is your day going?
  • Are you getting any “me time” for yourself?
  • I know you’re so busy, so I doubly appreciate your update on how (loved one) is doing.

Be organized when you call with a of topics/questions you want to cover, such as:

  • Your loved one’s vital signs: ask about the trends… Improving? Same? Worrisome?
  • Tests and  test results. What do they mean?
  • Medications: any new or stopped?  Why?
  • Results of the daily case conference about your loved one.
  • Your loved one’s spirits. Any concerns s/he has shared with the care team?
  • Ask about the patient load/”census” on the unit. Ask nurse if s/he feels  it’s a safe load or not?  If climbing or at an unsafe level, you may want to contact your loved one’s primary care doctor about possible transfer to another hospital or some other solution.
  • Ask about daily rounds: can you join via phone or tablet?
  • If needed, ask for help to connect to your loved one via phone or tablet
hospital bed

If your loved one is being treated for Covid and you are able to make a visit, use these tips to make your case.  

  • “I understand and respect your protocols and will take all precautions.”
  • (If applicable) “I am fully vaccinated and will bring my vaccination record.”
  • Mention if you are a licensed medical professional yourself.
  • Bring your own PPE (personal protective equipment, including gloves mask and one-piece suit) — and tell them you have it. Supplies are on their mind!
  • Again, state the benefits of your being there. Think about how you can help in ways that make their lives or jobs easier and also offer comfort and support to your loved one.
  • Be aware of cues that your loved one may be suffering emotional stress from lack of social support — make the case that your loved one’s physical condition may improve from in-person contact and support from you.

Health care crises are stressful for everyone. 

Try your best for an attitude of gratitude.

  • If you visit your loved one in the hospital, consider bringing a treat for the nursing staff: cookies, a basket of apples, or a box of Starbucks coffee and KIND bars are just a few ideas.
  • Following up with a thank you note would be gracious, too. Consider writing to the hospital’s Medical Director and CEO to cite any staff members who’ve been particularly wonderful to your loved one or you.
thank you

More tips?

Sign up for our newsletter! 

No fluff.  Just quick, simple tips for getting good health care.