Children need information about the patient who has been admitted to intensive care, just as adults do. If you want to bring a child to visit the patient in the Intensive Care Unit, please speak with the bedside nurse. The nurse can advise the best time for the visit, and will postpone the visit if there is a risk of infection, or the patient needs to avoid stimulation.
If the patient is awake and alert, be sure to ask if the child is welcome to visit. Some people do not want children to see them in a critical state. If your family member looks very different, the child needs to be prepared for what he or she will look like.
If a child does not want to visit the ICU, they should not be forced to do so. In this situation, it is still important to let the child know what is happening so imagination does not overtake reality. Remember to use words and ideas that the child can understand. Sometimes a simple picture can help explain a lot. As an alternative to visiting, the child can be encouraged to make a card or drawing, or send a favourite object to your family member in the ICU as a gift.
It’s helpful to bring a favourite toy, game or book. Playing helps children to relieve stress and express their feelings in difficult situations.
If you are having a hard time finding the right words to talk with children about critical illness, the social worker, clinical nurse specialist, or bedside nurse can help.