How to behave during hospital visits

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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Dear Cindy,

AN ELDERLY friend has just been confined in a hospital. As we all know when we are confined in a hospital, our world has become very small: the call bell, the curtains around the bed and the nursing station down the hall.

Most of all, my friend is separated from the people she loves. And after making decisions for a lifetime, my friend has been left with a day that proceeds on schedule: waking up, bathing, taking meals, enjoying activities and going to bed.


Can my visits to her make a difference? How should I conduct my visit to one who is on extended confinement? What is there to talk about or to do? What if she suddenly becomes distant; how do you handle that?


Dear Hazelle,

Can visits to those in hospitals make a difference? Medical personnel, caregivers, and the patients themselves say yes. Here are some suggestions for making your visits effective.

Upon entering the room, you should not always say a warm, “How are you?” Your friend may be depressed or in discomfort, yet struggling to give in to negative thinking. Instead try: “I came to be with you for a while.”

If you remain standing, you give the impression you will leave at any moment. Take along something to do together if silence becomes uncomfortable.

Researchers asked people over 65: “Do you have someone in whom you can confide?” Those who said yes had better health, both mental and physical, than those who said no. But what if you are hearing from your friend an outpouring of negative feelings like boredom, fear, loneliness, despair? Simply saying, “Cheer up, don’t feel sorry for yourself,” is not appropriate. You can respond with, ”I know it isn’t easy to live this way.” Or, “Thank you for telling me your real feelings. It’s a privilege to feel so close to you.

If your friend should suddenly become silent or change the subject, avoid pressuring. Some people are reserved by temperament. Others hold their negative thoughts inside, sparing those they care about. You should also be alert for every possible opportunity to leave him in control. You could phone and ask before visiting. Consult him or her about where your chair should be placed, where a gift of flowers can best be enjoyed.

Should your friend suddenly becomes distant, unreasonable, irritable, even lash out, it may be because they themselves are hurting. Those sudden personality changes may be beyond your friend’s control. Medication, depression, or physical changes may be responsible. Try not to feel angry at the person but at the cause of the behavior, and try not to take the hurt personally.
Watch out for signs of weariness. Sometimes a short visit is twice as helpful as a long one. Leave your friend with hope of another visit. And before you leave, say a word to the other patients. Half of those in hospitals never have a visitor.

As you return home after your visit, you can tell yourself that you have helped the slow hours pass for a friend, tried to ease the loneliness, and helped that person know he or she is cherished.

God bless,

How to battle dengue fever

Dear Dr. Dana,

Come school opening, I’ll be in my senior year in high school. I’m worried because a school mate of mine died from the dreaded dengue fever.

I’d just like to know more about the dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) and when it was first recognized. What are the ways to battle and control dengue?


Dear Deniece,

Mosquito-borne diseases usually break out during the rainy season, particularly after a flood or strong rain. This is because pools and puddles of water formed after the rain are ideal breeding places for the day-biting female mosquito that carries the disease.

A more lethal complication, DHF may ensue. First recognized during the 1950s, it is today a leading cause of childhood deaths in many countries. DHF is a potentially deadly complication that is characterized by high fever, hemorrhagic phenomena, often with enlargement of the liver, and in severe cases circulatory failure.

Generally, dengue fever starts with a sudden rise in temperature, accompanied by facial flush and other non-specific constitutional symptoms of dengue fever. In moderate dengue fever cases, all signs and symptoms abate after the fever subsides.

In severe cases, the patient’s condition may suddenly deteriorate after a few days of fever; the temperature drops, followed by signs of circulatory failure, and the patient may rapidly go into a critical state of shock and die within 12 to 24 hours, or quickly recover following appropriate volume replacement therapy.

There is still no vaccine or direct antiviral drug proven to be effective against dengue fever and its complication. In the absence of a vaccine, patients in the hospitals are helped with intravenous fluids and blood transfusions.

Meanwhile, government health officials claim that controlling dengue fever outbreaks require long-term sustained and community-wide efforts at environment sanitation. Fogging or spraying will not work because these only kill adult mosquito carriers, not their dormant eggs.

The following can be done: Cultural control, sanitation and hygiene; getting rid of tin cans and other receptacles that can hold water; clearing clogged canals; and pruning or trimming plants to avoid dense canopies, which serve as hiding places of mosquitoes. This will also make your plants healthier and nicer-looking. Smudging is also good. The smoke generated by burning leaves, especially when neem leaves are used, also drives away mosquitoes.

Very truly yours,
Dr. Dana R. Sesante

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 18, 2014.


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