Hospitalized loved ones need Christmastime, too

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - If you have a loved one hospitalized over the holidays, experts at the University of Alabama at Birmingham say you can take extra steps to make their Christmas bright.

"Being in the hospital can be distressing for anybody," says Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., a UAB clinical psychologist. "While the psychological impact may be short-lived, the bottom line is people would rather be well and home than sick and away. "

"In addition to the hospital's efforts to enhance the holiday spirit of our patients, like providing music therapy and collecting toys and stockings for the children, family and friends can also take part in a variety of ways," explains Jordan DeMoss, assistant vice president of UAB Hospital.

DeMoss says the first step is to spend time with a loved one. After that, there are many ways to brighten a holiday hospital stay. Provided they are in a non-intensive care setting, DeMoss offers these tips for sharing holidays in the hospital:

•    Bring decorations like lights and stockings to their room when you visit.
•    If dietary rules allow, bring in your loved one's favorite food or tell a nurse about their favorite holiday meal; the hospital chef might be able to prepare something special.
•    Ask care providers if a massage is safe for the patient; if so, arrange for a licensed  massage therapist to deliver a "house call" to your loved one in the hospital.
•    Inquire about in-room music therapy or bring in a stereo and play favorite holiday tunes.
•    Engaging in familiar activities – anything from knitting to video games – can help divert a patient's mind from unfamiliar surroundings and bring a sense of routine and happiness.

Technology is another way to get in your visit if you can't get to the location. Services like Skype and Apple's Facetime can give you a long distance visit. Many hospitals come with wireless internet available.

You don't have to have know someone in the hospital to spread cheer to them, says Terri Middlebrooks, R.N., nurse manager in the Acute Care for Elders unit at UAB Highlands Hospital.

"Last year I told my daughter about a patient on our floor who had no family or friends to visit him. She brought a Christmas tree to his room," Middlebrooks says. "Soon enough, the whole staff was participating and bringing him presents and other goodies."

Whether it's a friend, family member or a stranger, Klapow says to be sure the patient knows you're there by choice, they aren't ruining your holiday.

"Convey to them that you are celebrating that they are here with you. Focus on the meaning of the holiday, and not so much the environment," he says.

Copyright 2011 WBRC. All rights reserved.