Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get information regarding my loved one?


The ICU is a dynamic environment with often rapidly changing patient conditions. We endeavour to provide timely information on the patient’s condition.

The nurse looking after your loved one will be able to give you information on your loved one’s progress. Medical staff will endeavour to meet with you frequently – if you wish to meet with medical staff, please let your loved one’s nurse know.




Do I need to bring anything in for my loved one?


It is helpful for you to bring in your loved ones personal toiletries such as toothbrush and toothpaste, hair brush / comb, shaving accessories or any favourite soaps / body wash / deodorants.

Feel free to bring in family photos which we can display or favourite music (CDs) which we can play.

If patients are awake and interested we have televisions available.

At this time, these belongings can be left at the Alfred main reception and will be brought to ICU by the hospital orderly. Please be mindful of community travel restrictions during this time.




What things can I Bring?


Toiletries
Toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, hairbrush, soap, shaving equipment etc.

Photos of family/ friends

Other things to consider might include:

• Personal music device (with headphones)

• CDs
•I-pad/tablet/small laptop (movies to watch, photos, music, typing for communication...)

• Magazines/books/newspapers

Label everything with the patient’s name so it doesn't get lost




How long should I stay?


Currently we cannot allow visitors to the Intensive care Unit, except for extenuating circumstances. Further update regarding this can be sought from your loved one’s nurse or medical team.

We can organise telehealth with your loved one at the bedside, and we encourage patients to speak to their families, and loved ones, on their own devices.




Why doesn’t my loved one talk to me?


There are many reasons why a critically ill patient does not speak. The breathing tube (endotracheal tube or tracheostomy tube) can make speaking impossible or very difficult. Often the patient receives medicine (sedation) to reduce anxiety and pain-killers, which may make them sleepy. Sometimes, your loved one’s illness may also make it difficult for them to talk or to stay awake.

Keep exchanges simple. You can help by not asking questions that require long answers and talking to your loved one in a soothing calm tone.




What about children?


As mentioned above, there is currently no visitation to the ICU.

What you can tell the child will depend on their age and why their parent or relative was taken into the ICU. You can help a child deal with the situation by:

  • Trying to keep to their routine as much as possible (including school trips, seeing friends and going to after-school clubs if the child wants to)

  • Making sure the child is looked after by someone they know – so they can feel safe at a difficult time.

  • Telling the school – and any other relevant groups, that the child’s parent or relative is in intensive care. Remember to be honest if you don’t know what is going to happen. If you are not sure – try to say something they can understand that will help the child feel secure and reassured – for example :

If the patient is a parent, try to make sure their child has special time with other members of the family (for example, reading bedtime stories together), as the child will probably start to depend on them more. The child may like to keep a diary with two pages each day – one for a brief description of each day and what they did and one for any souvenirs of the day (pictures and so on). This helps the child understand what is happening and makes it easier for them to talk to the parent about what happened in their life while the parent was in hospital. Some children may begin to act younger than they are. For example, they may start to suck their thumb or carry a favourite toy with them. This shouldn’t be discouraged because the child is trying to find comfort at a worrying time. If you are concerned about them or their behaviour changes significantly, ask your GP whether the child could receive counselling or support.

Once the patient is out of the ICU, the child may need help dealing with what happened. This can be a gradual process and can take several months. At times, it may be helpful to mention the patient’s stay in hospital so the child knows they can talk about it. Let them ask questions, and ask them how they felt at that time. If the child is very young, they may find it easier to show their feelings by drawing pictures or acting out what happened.

Remember that children can ask very blunt questions, so if the patient doesn’t feel strong enough to cope with this, ask another family member or friend to talk to the child about their experiences and feelings.

If the patient dies, the child will need special attention. Bereavement counselling services can provide special help for a young person whose relative has died.

Please let our nursing or medical staff know if you require more support with this and we can get you in touch with our social work department.




What happens when Intensive Care is no longer needed?


Leaving the ICU is a positive step and usually a sign that things are improving.

Patients and families may feel anxious about the prospect of leaving the ICU, especially if your stay with us has been a long one. You may have developed close relationships with the nurses and doctors in the ICU, the technology and constant monitoring may have made you feel secure.

Our ward staff are familiar with caring for patients who have been in the ICU and will continue the care required.

Our Patient Access Nurses liaise with the wards to co-ordinate discharges and a smooth transfer from the ICU to the ward.

On the ward, nurses will be caring for other patients as well. You will be able to call for the nurse at any time by using the call bell. As part of patient care plans the staff will encourage independence.

As strength and condition improves patients require less assistance and intervention from staff.




Do ICU staff visit on the ward?


ICU involvement in patient care continues after transfer to the ward.

The Intensive Care Outreach Service will visit your loved one once discharged and monitor their progress on the wards.

The Intensive Care Outreach team is made up of both medical and nursing staff who visit patients on the ward within 24 hours of discharge from ICU.

The team will assess progress and ensure their are ongoing plans put into place. We endeavour to lessen patient and family anxiety by preparing you early for the transfer to the ward and by maintaining contact with our follow up visits. Patients are reviewed as often as necessary by our Intensive Care Outreach Service.




What about when it is time to leave the hospital?


Another big step in recovery is when the patient is well enough to leave hospital. Both patient and loved ones may feel apprehensive and also excited about the next step. Preparation for discharge will involve meeting with a variety of health professionals on the ward, such as social workers, occupational therapists and rehabilitative consultants. Discharge destination may be home or a rehabilitation facility depending on individual needs.

Once discharged from hospital patients may realise the full impact of their hospital stay, the critical illness and subsequent decrease in general well-being. Physical difficulties such as muscle weakness, joint stiffness, numbness, sleep and taste disturbance, hair loss and skin changes become more apparent at home. Some patients have said even when they are at home they continue to have dreams and flashbacks about their ICU experience.

We suggest setting short-term, achievable goals. Don’t try to overcome all problems at once. There are help and support groups in the community. The social work department will be able to help identify supports available to you.

Patients will generally need to return to the hospital for outpatient appointments. Outpatient appointments are with your treating medical staff or sometimes with the allied health departments depending on individual needs. Appointments are arranged on the day of discharge.




So what can we expect now?


Recovery is different for all patients. Some patients spend only a short period in the ICU whereas others may spend weeks or months. Some patients will be much sicker than others. It is sometimes difficult to predict the rate of recovery and outcome as all patients are different. The following are some general issues that patients may experience after leaving the ICU.

General weakness

  • As patients recover, it may become apparent just how weak they are. Sitting out in a chair may be exhausting at first. The nurses and physiotherapists will help patients to regain their strength and set realistic goals for recovery. In the beginning, short term achievable goals are recommended. Plenty of rest between activities will help regain some strength.

Sleep deprivation

  • The ICU environment is often not good for sleep and it is easy to lose day-night routine. The ward is generally quieter and patients require fewer interventions; in this environment sleep patterns will return to a more natural state. Some patients have described experiencing bad dreams or nightmares following their ICU stay. This is very common and usually subside over time but patients may find it helpful to talk to family, friends or the nurse if these occur.

Amnesia/Delusions

  • Some patients may not remember what happened to them whilst in the ICU. Patients might also think they remember something that didn’t happen at all. If patients would like more information about their stay in the ICU or would like to talk to someone about these issues ask to see the ICU Liaison Nurse.

Eating and drinking well

  • Depending on the patient’s circumstances, it may take some time before they can eat and drink well enough to maintain nutritional requirements. A dietitian will monitor nutritional status and food will be provided either to eat normally or via a feeding tube. When patients do start to take food and drink orally they may notice it tastes different or the mouth may be sore. This should resolve fairly quickly but let the nurse know of any concerns.

Digestive alterations

  • Patients may experience constipation, diarrhoea, bloating, or stomach ache as they recover. These symptoms may be the result of serious illness, surgery or drugs. Make sure you let the nurse know if your loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms so a treatment plan can be developed.




Can I take photos?


If taking photographs, please ensure:

  • You have considered the person’s legal rights and wishes

  • It does not interfere with the person’s clinical care

  • Hospital staff and other patients aren’t accidentally photographed


If photography disrupts the delivery of care - even if your loved one has given permission - a staff member may request a stop to photography.
If your loved one is unable to consent, staff may stop photography if they believe it is not in the best interests of the patient.

Sharing images

Posting images online, including on sites such as Facebook and Instagram, can provide timely updates for family and friends, but digital images can be easily shared. Be sure to check the privacy settings on your social media accounts to make sure you control who can see the images.

For more information please ask an Alfred Health doctor or nurse.





The Alfred Intensive Care Unit
Main Ward Block, Level 1,

55 Commercial Rd, Melbourne VIC 3004

Phone : (03) 9076 0700
Fax:       (03) 9076 2835

© Alfred ICU 2020