Getting help when your child is in hospital

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Coping with your child's illness as a parent means taking care of yourself. Learn practical stress relief approaches for parents.

Key points

  • If you have a sick child in the hospital you will still need to keep up with other aspects of your daily life such as caring for other children and meeting work and financial obligations. Draw on the resources you have and get the help that you need.
  • You may be able to get some help from the hospital and community health services for certain things, but do not be afraid to ask family, friends and neighbours for help especially with the day-to-day tasks around the home.

Most people are not in a position to be able to suddenly drop everything in their lives and be with their sick child in the hospital 24 hours a day. Even parents who may be independently wealthy will have to make arrangements that will require more than just money. For example, there may be other children in the family who still require competent and trustworthy care.

All families will have to keep on with many aspects of their lives, no matter what. Income and other financial matters cannot be ignored for long; children need to be cared for, and transportation needs to be arranged. Juggling all of this while still visiting a child, perhaps for extended periods in the hospital, will be difficult. You cannot do it all yourself. There will certainly be resources and other help that can be accessed at the hospital which you should take advantage of. But do not stop there. Draw on whatever other resources you have.

Typical needs

Depending on the expected length of stay, the distance to the hospital from your home, and other factors, think about getting help for the following:

  • taking care of other children and dependent family members
  • keeping up with the bills and other financial matters
  • keeping up with the demands at work
  • preparing for their child's eventual discharge and arrival home
  • managing time between hospital stays and the rest of life's ongoing responsibilities

While there may be various services available through the hospital to help you with these issues, think about who else can help. Family, friends and neighbours are a good place to look to find what you cannot get from the hospital or community health service agencies.

Practical tips

Making a list of all that you need in terms of practical help may be useful. Going after specific things from specific people and agencies may be less overwhelming. Also, as things get done and are ticked off the list, the stress level will likely drop.

Get in touch with friends and family and ask them to do specific things, such as:

  • carpooling to lessons or school
  • making family dinners or bringing meals to the house; Take Them a Meal is a website that helps family and friends coordinate a meal schedule
  • doing laundry
  • watering plants
  • tidying and cleaning
  • taking out the garbage and recycling
  • mail collection

When people ask "Is there anything I can do to help?" say "Yes!" and give them something to do off your list.

Assign someone to be the conduit of information. Parents can often get frustrated or overwhelmed when friends and relatives are all phoning, asking how the sick child is doing. Appoint one person to inform the rest and keep that one person informed.

Realize that some people are going to be more helpful than others, and not necessarily the ones you expected.

Above all, do not be embarrassed to ask for help. Most friends and family members will be glad to have something to help you with during this difficult time.

Last updated: June 13th 2012