If a family or close friend with COVID had to stay in hospital, it could have been very stressful for you because:
- Your family or close friend was seriously unwell, and you were not be allowed to visit them
- You may not have been able to find out as much information as you wanted to understand what was happening
- You may not have known the hospital staff caring for your family member
- You may have felt extra strain on everyday life because your loved one was not at home to support you with running your home
Being in hospital with COVID can be scary for your family member or friend. Patients who spend time in an intensive care unit (ICU) have to get many tests and treatments in a stressful environment.
Sometimes people who stayed in ICU have unusual experiences such as:
- Hallucinations – seeing or hearing things that are not there
- Delusions – strange beliefs about what is going on in the hospital
These unusual experiences are caused by confusion or delirium, which makes you see or hear things that are not real and can make you feel scared or lonely. Confusion or delirium can be caused by the noisy ICU area/ward, their illness or the medication they may have been given.
If your family member or friend experienced any of these when they were in hospital, it could mean they found it difficult to work out what was real and what was not real.
These experiences usually only last for a short amount of time. It does not mean there is anything wrong with their mind, but it could be hard for you to hear about their experience as it might be upsetting and confusing.
Learn more about:
How you might feel as your family member or friend gets better from COVID?
When your family member or friend is getting better from COVID, they might have other problems with their body and mind.
Whilst they are recovering, you might need to:
- Be more understanding and give your family member or friend more support than usual
- Find a balance between caring for your family member or friend and supporting them to be more independent
This can be a difficult time. It is normal to worry about the support you need to give your family member or friend as they get better from COVID. This support is very important.
You can talk to your family member or friend about their recovery and help them focus on getting better and understand that this can take time. Some people find it difficult to accept that they survived COVID and can begin their recovery.
When your family member or friend was unwell with COVID, you may have felt:
- Worried that they could die
This can continue for you while your family member or friend is getting better from COVID. This is why is it also important to look after yourself.
Looking after yourself
You also need to take care of yourself to support your family member or friend.
Sometimes relationships change because the person you are supporting does not realise how hard it has been for you. You might not tell them how you feel because you do not want to upset them while they are unwell.
Your family member or friend might be stressed or upset because:
- It takes time to get used to the changes in their life caused by COVID
- They find it difficult to manage their daily activities
- COVID has affected their body
- COVID has affected their mind
How your family member is feeling will affect how you feel too. Here are some things that can help:
- Try to understand how supporting your family member or friend makes you feel
- Try to take time for yourself to do things you enjoy
- Speak to someone if you find it difficult to manage your daily tasks while supporting a family member or close friend
There are many support helplines and local charities available for family members, friends and carers to get help and support:
- icusteps.org – a charity run by intensive care patients and their relatives
- carersuk.org – advice and support for carers and young carers
- nhs.uk – the NHS website for England with information on health, treatment and services
- youngminds.org.uk - a site with lots of information that can support young people in crisis
- Take care of your health – make sure you are eating and sleeping well
- Take breaks from looking after your family member or friend – give yourself time to rest and relax
- Spend time with your friends – in person or on the phone, or by video call
- Go for a walk or do some form of exercise if you can – exercise is good for your well-being and keeps your body and mind healthy
- Talk to someone you trust about how you feel
- Ask for support from: family, friends, a support group, community support, online information and your GP – speak to your GP if your anxiety or stress becomes debilitating
How to communicate with your loved one
- Take time to talk about how everyone feels
- Allow each other time to speak – it might take some people longer than others to give an answer or understand a question
- Sometimes all you need to do is sit and listen
- Listen to how your family member or friend wants to be supported
- Try not to do too much for your family member or friend – you might want to, but it is better if they slowly do things on their own
- Support your family member or friend to be more active and do things together
- Respect the wishes of your family member or friend
- Think about how you talk to your family member or friend because they might find it difficult to understand how things have changed
- You may have to do things differently or more slowly
- Give your family member or friend support but give them privacy and space too
- Have a support network or group you can talk to
You and your partner
If your partner had COVID, this could change your relationship in different ways. You might already have a lot to deal with, such as:
- Your own health
Now there is more going on, such as:
- Appointments for your partner
- Visits from healthcare workers
- Changes to your daily tasks and plans
- Lack of independence
Sometimes people find it hard to talk about personal issues for example, with self-care:
- Needing more support from someone
- Changes to your sex life or how close you are with your partner
- How you are feeling
- Being in pain
Be patient this should get better as they start to recover from COVID.
What can I do if it feels like I have too much to do?
- Focus on things that are most important at the moment
- Prioritise the most important tasks
- Give yourself time to rest
- Problem solve and work together to support each other
- Allow your family member or friend to do things in a way that works for them
- Give yourself time to have a break away from your family member or friend
- Get advice or support if you need it
- Speak to your GP about local support services
There is a special NHS service called Improving Access to Psychological Therapies or IAPT. Your GP can refer you to IAPT or you can get in touch yourself. Find your local psychological therapy service.
If you need more advice and support
The NHS offers emergency mental health helplines for:
- 24-hour advice and support from a mental healthcare professional
- A mental health assessment to work out the type of support needed – click here to find out more
There are several national services ran by charities that offer confidential advice from trained volunteers. You can contact them 24 hours a day/seven days a week.
Call 116 123 to talk to Samaritans, or email: email@example.com for a reply within 24 hours,
Text SHOUT to 85258 to contact the Shout Crisis Text Line.