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Hospital visiting: was I unreasonable?

(75 Posts)
MargotLedbetter Sun 14-Aug-22 15:58:17

What do you do/ talk about / how do you behave when you visit people in hospital?

Earlier this year I visited an outlying relative in hospital several times. Every visit I'd ask about how she was doing but she never seemed to want to talk about it. So I took the tack of keeping things cheerful and turned up with puzzles to do (she loves puzzles) and the newspaper to read and nice nibbles and we played Wordle and other online games and sat knitting and chatting until she grew weary, at which point I'd leave. She seemed to enjoy it. In fact one of the other ladies in her side-ward said how much she enjoyed my visits.

I now hear that she's told another relative that I showed no interest at all in her condition and tried to avoid any talk about it. Also that it was very tedious, having to endure my attempts to entertain her.

I know it's only an old lady being grumpy and ungrateful and I know it means that if she's ill again I can excuse myself from having any involvement, but it's made me wonder what other people do when they visit people in hospital. How do you approach it?

Jaffacake2 Sun 14-Aug-22 16:07:11

Maybe your relative was exhausted at being in hospital and depressed about her illness.Unfortunately I have had several stays in hospital with a serious condition and would not have coped with visitors trying to entertain me. Mostly they stayed for short periods,listened to any talk from me about treatment, told me a few snippets about family news then leave. I found it very tiring although pleased to have a visitor.

Hithere Sun 14-Aug-22 16:11:47

If this relative does it to you, she does it to everybody

It is not unheard of sick relatives being visited but complaining to others how they are ignored

MerylStreep Sun 14-Aug-22 16:15:49

How long were you there? You didn’t do all that in one visit did you?

MargotLedbetter Sun 14-Aug-22 16:15:51

I won't reveal what she was in hospital for, but it wasn't something that left her feeling ill or particularly exhausted. I left as soon as I sensed she was tired.

Jaffacake2, did you tell people it was time for them to go or just hope they'd pick up on it? The first visit I went unarmed and she complained of being bored, so we discussed things she might enjoy and I went down and bought puzzles and a newspaper from the hospital shop. Plus ice cream.

It was a 90-minute round drive, so a bit galling to hear that it wasn't appreciated!

DillytheGardener Sun 14-Aug-22 16:21:42

MargotLedbetter gosh how rude, she rebuffed your questions about her current health, complained she was bored so you asked her what she enjoyed and provided it.

What an ungrateful so and so. If your visits were too much she could have said she needed rest and wouldn’t be up to visits again. How churlish too, to complain to your other friends and moan about your kind visits.

I was in hospital for sometime for a surgery once and was glad of the visits, some wore me out and weren’t always the right thing, but everyone of those visitors I’ll always remember their kindness to come and keep my spirits up.

Sorry op, how rude indeed. confused

MargotLedbetter Sun 14-Aug-22 16:22:29

MerylStreep, no, I did six vists over a period of two months. Four the first time she was in and a couple more when she had to go back. Took her laundry away and washed everything for her, bought supplies — the sort of thing family does. I'm not sure how many other visitors she had. Her son and his family live abroad and she wasn't dangerously ill.

No, I didn't arrive with 'Today we're going to do puzzles' but she seemed to enjoy the company so as I say I stayed until she started to flag, at which point I suggested that it was time for me to go and if she didn't say 'Oh, no, don't go' I went. I tried to be clear.

welbeck Sun 14-Aug-22 16:23:36

well, it depends on the relationship of course, but i would never ask somebody about their medical condition and only discuss it if they wanted to, even then i would mostly listen, not ask questions.
i see the role of the visitor to be a gofer; to fetch things, carry messages, in both the english and scottish/irish sense, top up phones, buy tv cards.
so do useful things as directed by the patient, which hosp staff cannot do.

Aveline Sun 14-Aug-22 16:25:22

I'd have let her tell you how she was feeling and shown an interest in her illness/condition. It would be the main thing on her mind anyway. Her world will have shrunk to the ward and ongoing care issues.
I certainly wouldn't stay very long. It wasn't her fault you had a long journey and needed to make the trip worth your while. Next time send a nice card and convey your good wishes to her via a relative that you know is visiting.

MargotLedbetter Sun 14-Aug-22 16:28:03

Thank you, Dilly. I appreciate it's quite stressful, having people you don't know particularly well turning up and potentially sitting there for hours with nothing much to say or do. It's a tightrope for both parties.

MargotLedbetter Sun 14-Aug-22 16:29:59

Aveline, I gave her loads of time and space to talk about her situation if she wanted, but she didn't seem to want to and I wasn't going to badger her.

VioletSky Sun 14-Aug-22 16:30:24

I agree with Hithere

I don't think you did anything wrong and neither should you

DillytheGardener Sun 14-Aug-22 16:32:40

MargotLedbetter yes your feelings must have been hurt, mine would have been too. Personally, I was glad of everyone of my visitors, even if sometimes I was a little worn out, because every person who showed up, did so because they value my friendship and I wasn’t left there on my own for two weeks forgotten.

You sound like a kind person. If it were me, I’d say something like “I heard that my visits were taxing for you, I’m sorry to hear that, I wouldn’t have intruded had I known I was imposing” , see what she says then.

Aveline Sun 14-Aug-22 16:34:22

No need to badger her. Just quietly give her the opportunity if she wanted to. I'm a hospital volunteer so have lots of practise at judging how people are and when to stay and when to move on. People are all so different it's often a fine judgement. Times I've thought, 'Well that could have gone better,' and later heard my visit was really appreciated and other times the opposite! Easy for me to say though as I'm usually (but not always) a complete stranger.

Fleurpepper Sun 14-Aug-22 16:36:34

Good post Aveline.

MargotLedbetter Sun 14-Aug-22 16:37:35

Not exactly hurt, Dilly, but more 'why on earth did I bother?' and pondering, yet again, on the difficulties of ever doing the right thing at the right time.

I've had enough elderly relatives to know better, really. Some of them are lovely, no matter what, and some are always complicated. I'll get over it.

welbeck Sun 14-Aug-22 16:38:28

no, i wouldn't say that; that sounds like a dig to me.
passive-aggressive, best avoided.
just try to take the emotion out of it all. not put it in.
view it as a task that you have now gained more information how to perform better in future, if need be.
like planning a route; you found the A30583 attracts slow-moving agricultural vehicles, so it's better to take the B493873.
make a plan. review. reset. make amended plan.

welbeck Sun 14-Aug-22 16:41:06

my comment was in answer to the suggestion,

If it were me, I’d say something like “I heard that my visits were taxing for you, I’m sorry to hear that, I wouldn’t have intruded had I known I was imposing” , see what she says then.

Ilovecheese Sun 14-Aug-22 16:53:59

You did nothing wrong. Give yourself a treat.

DillytheGardener Sun 14-Aug-22 16:57:17

MargotLedbetter ahh, I didn’t realise she was elderly. My MIL has become more and more cantankerous as the years go on.

Fleurpepper Sun 14-Aug-22 17:03:48

One of my DDs went to see a very elderly neighbour she has been helping throughout Covid. A very private person, not the chatting time. At the end, DD asked if she was allowed to hug her. The old lady looked at her, and pondered for quite some time, and then said 'why not'. DD gave her a good hug, for quite a while- just holding her. And the old lady said 'you know, I can't remember when I last had a hug' and they both shed a few tears. So DD said, well, we will have to do it again next time I come to see you. Yes, she said, and let go of her hands.

Fleurpepper Sun 14-Aug-22 17:04:11

type not time.

Jaffacake2 Sun 14-Aug-22 17:08:56

MargotLedbetter it sounds very different from my situation in hospital. My visitors all realised that I was very poorly and left within 20 mins maximum.
Your relative sounds unhappy and unappreciative of your visits. Maybe wait till she gets home for your next contact or talk to her about how she feels about having visits from you.

MargotLedbetter Sun 14-Aug-22 17:11:32

That's lovely, Fleurpepper. Great girl you have there.

So many mixed messages, so difficult to decipher. Did they have a second hug?

PollyDolly Sun 14-Aug-22 17:17:34

Considering that you had actually asked after her wellbeing which she didn't want to discuss and you kept visiting and engaging with her afterwards, so well that other patients noticed, I would say she was ungrateful and rude.

I would also have been tempted to explain the facts to the other relative and put them straight. Why should you be criticised and put down simply because you were being kind?