When a loved one is in crisis it can be difficult to find the right things to say or do. As a friend or family member of an impending transplant patient, it is important to remain optimistic and help your loved one relax prior to surgery. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that patients who were optimistic going in to surgery had a faster rate of recovery during their hospitalization, and thankfully, it doesn’t take a psychology degree to learn how to soothe a loved one. While there is no "right" thing to say, by using some psychologically proven tips you can help your loved one, and yourself, get through the experience with a minimum of stress and anxiety.
Dixie Mills, MD, FACS states that studies have proven deep relaxation prior to surgery can strengthen the immune system, which aids in recovery. Helping your loved one reach a state of deep relaxation can be a powerful boost to their recovery time. There are a variety of relaxation and guided meditation CDs or books that you can purchase to help the person relax prior to transplant surgery. Another important technique is positive visualization. Help your loved one imagine a successful operation and a healthy life post-surgery with a perfectly functioning body. Try deep breathing to calm the jitters both of you will be experiencing.
Act as an Advocate
When a person is extremely ill they are often too frustrated, scared, and anxious to ask the right questions of medical personnel. Be sure your loved one has all of their questions answered by a knowledgeable, caring member of the hospital staff. If need be, enlist the support of a medical social worker. Having the answers and a clear, concise game plan can help alleviate some of the anxiety. Or if possible, connect your loved one with other transplant patients so they know that they are not alone.
Just Be There
While worrying that you'll say the wrong thing or that you aren't doing enough is common, it is often untrue. Sometimes just being there is enough. Your loved one is in a high stress situation prior to transplant surgery. A smile, a warm hand to hold, and reassuring words can work wonders. Help to alleviate their uncertainty. Perhaps bring up a time when your loved one successfully healed from an injury or illness. Let them know fear is natural, but that they are in good hands. Pritchett & Hull Associates, Inc., a publisher of patient-friendly medical literature, suggests reminding your loved one of good times you've had together and the good times you'll have with one another in the future.
Transplant surgery is a difficult time for everyone involved. Helping your loved one relax and enter the operating room with optimism is crucial. By employing these techniques you can not only make the procedure easier, but develop a closer bond with your friend or family member. Letting a pre-transplant patient know that you are there for them unconditionally is perhaps the greatest gift of all.
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