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Making Hospital Stays Less Alienating for Chronic Patients

Practical ways to reduce feelings of isolation for loved ones in the hospital.

Key points

  • Regular visits and video calls can significantly reduce feelings of isolation and improve patient morale.
  • Expressing gratitude to medical staff and asking for their guidance enhances the overall hospital experience.

Hospital stays, I have found, are challenging and isolating experiences for patients, especially family members with chronic conditions. While medical staff do their best to provide excellent care, a hospital's sterile and unfamiliar environment can often make patients feel alienated and disconnected from their normal everyday lives. After spending weeks visiting my dad in hospital, I have come to appreciate the incredible job that nurses and medical staff do. However, I also realised there are possible ways we can all contribute to making hospital stays for our loved ones and friends more bearable and less isolating.

Understanding the Challenge

My father's hospitalisation resulted in a break from his regular routine and a high degree of physical discomfort and emotional stress. Hospital patients can feel isolated from their family and friends, disconnected from their interests and routines, and overwhelmed by the constant presence of medical equipment and procedures. These factors can contribute to feelings of alienation and loneliness, which can negatively impact a patient's mental and emotional well-being and potentially affect their recovery.

The Role of Family and Friends

Family and friends are crucial in supporting family members and friends in hospitals. Human connection is vital for emotional well-being, and maintaining social interactions can significantly alleviate feelings of isolation. Here are some practical ways to make a hospital stay more comfortable for your loved one:

1. Frequent Visits and Calls

Maintaining and encouraging friends and family to visit or call on a regular basis can provide a sense of normalcy and connection. If possible, organise a schedule so that people visit at various times, ensuring that the patient has regular company without being overwhelmed. I have found short visits can make a significant difference. If hospital visits are not possible, video calls are a great alternative to provide comfort and support.

2. Personalised Items

Bringing personal items from home can help make the hospital environment feel less sterile and more familiar. Consider items like a favorite blanket, dressing gown, family photos, or book. These items can provide emotional comfort and serve as a reminder of home.

3. Engage in Conversation

Engage your loved one in conversations that take their mind off their illness. Talk about happy memories, future plans, or interesting topics unrelated to their medical condition. These conversations can provide a mental escape from the hospital environment and uplift their spirits. Sharing laughter and light-hearted humour can have a positive impact on their emotional well-being.

4. Express Love and Support

Always express your love and support. Tell your loved one how much you care for them. Simple words like "I love you" can provide comfort and reassurance, reminding them that they are not alone in their illness and recovery. Emotional support is a crucial component of the healing process.

Support Networks Important

Creating a support network is crucial for maintaining a consistent presence and ensuring the patient feels cared for and remembered. Here are some ways to establish and maintain a support network:

1. Group Communication

Set up a group chat and a shared calendar where family and friends can share updates and send messages of support. This platform can be used to coordinate visits, share messages of support, and keep everyone informed about the patient's condition.

2. Rotational Patient Visiting Schedule

A rotation patient visiting schedule should be developed so that family and friends can visit or call your loved one. It is important that family and friends have regular interactions and avoid burnout among caregivers. A schedule of visitors can help maintain a steady stream of support without overwhelming the patient or the caregivers.

Supporting the Medical Staff

Recognising and supporting the efforts of the medical staff is also essential. Nurses and doctors work tirelessly to provide the best care possible, and small gestures of appreciation can go a long way in boosting their morale and enhancing the overall hospital experience.

1. Show Appreciation

Simple acts of gratitude, such as thank-you cards or a box of chocolates, can express your appreciation for the medical staff's hard work and dedication. These gestures can help build a positive relationship between the patient’s family and the healthcare team, fostering a supportive and cooperative environment.

2. Ask for Guidance

Engage with the medical staff to understand how you can best support your loved one. Nurses and doctors often have valuable insights into what might be helpful for the patient. They can suggest specific ways to make the hospital stay more comfortable, such as adjusting the room environment or providing certain types of entertainment or comfort items.


Making a hospital stay less alienating involves a collaborative effort between family, friends, medical staff, and the hospital administration. By encouraging regular visits and calls, bringing personalised comfort items, creating a support network, showing appreciation for medical staff, engaging in meaningful conversations, and expressing love and support, we can significantly improve the patient or loved ones' hospital experience. These efforts can help reduce feelings of isolation, promote emotional well-being, and potentially contribute to a faster and smoother recovery.

More from Nigel R. Bairstow Ph.D.
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