Red heart on a table

When COVID-19 infection leads to hospitalization: Simple ways to plan ahead to comfort a loved one from afar

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, unprecedented headlines abound.

With the death toll mounting, some of the most heart-wrenching stories for me have been those that describe the heartache of families who were not able to be with their loved ones when they died in the hospital.

We saw the early signs of this dynamic in images of family members sitting outside assisted living and skilled care facilities—which is still occurring—talking on the phone to loved ones through the window, and pressing their hands against the pane in an effort to maintain some sense of connection to find comfort for them both.

Stethoscope to symbolize how COVID-19 hospitalization may lead to separation from loved ones

How hospitalization with COVID-19 infection creates separation

In the last few days, we’ve watched hospital doctors and nurses on the news, describing the heartache of being the single bridge of communication between a patient and family.

One doctor talked about helping a patient FaceTime with his wife as he was about to be sedated and then intubated so he could get the ventilator support that was needed.

In another story, a nurse wept as she described FaceTiming with a family to provide a bridge of communication as their loved one was dying.

I have so many thoughts running through my head in response to all of that.

Instead of trying to address them all in one post, I’ll start with this.

Woman with hands out with yellow daisy in palms

How you can give—and receive—comfort from afar when a loved one is hospitalized with COVID-19 infection.

In the midst of the uncertainty of this pandemic, a time may come when you may need to provide comfort from afar for a loved one who is in the hospital with COVID-19 infection.

And actually, that goes both ways.

If you need to be hospitalized or separated in another way, your loved ones will need comfort from you, too.

The stories shared by healthcare workers on the front lines indicate that if someone’s condition declines and ventilator support is needed, there’s a short window of time in which that occurs.

So, there may not be much time to prepare and think about all of this then.

Additionally, in the hospital setting and during a time when everyone is cooped up at home and online, there may be connectivity issues that inhibit your ability to communicate.

Plus, hospital restrictions may mean that patients might not have their own phones.

However, in other settings that may not be the case, and personal phones might be permitted.

With all of that in mind, consider how you might plan ahead through things like:

  • Writing a card, letter, or series of notes to remind someone of how much they mean to you. If a loved one is heading to the hospital, send them with them—and if you are the one leaving your home for care, leave them at home for your family to read while you’re away.
  • Recording comforting audio or video messages a loved one can listen to while you’re separated. The sound of a loved one’s voice can be so soothing, and is simple to do. You can use the video or audio recording functions on your phone to create a file which can then be sent via email or text. Text messaging applications usually have the ability to leave audio messages, too. If you can record messages on your loved one’s phone, that may be even better.
  • Sharing passages of Scripture that hold special meaning and can offer comfort and hope.
  • Recording or writing out prayers to share with your loved one.
  • Of course, prayer is always a powerful way to send comfort for someone else—asking God to provide it when you can’t be there to do that yourself.

These are a few simple ways you can send comfort from afar—and you can be creative and find your own ways to do it. An important thing to consider in these uncertain times is the need to plan ahead.

Hopefully, you and your family will do well in this crisis and no separation will occur. And if that’s the case, you’ll end up with a treasure trove of loving gestures to share that also serve as reminders that every day is a gift.

How about you? What ideas do you have for giving—and receiving—comfort from afar?

Please join the conversation by commenting below.

As note: Remember that you shouldn’t send confidential information through digital tools and networks (including email, text, and video/audio tools) that may not be secure. Unless it’s specifically set up as an encrypted means of communication, likely it’s not secure, so you would be doing so at your own risk.

Sue Montgomery is a Christian writer/content creator who's also been a hospice nurse, family caregiver, health coach, and professional organizer. Now she's helping Baby Boomers like herself embrace the Boomer Continuum™ of agile caregiving, graceful aging, and peaceful dying—with Christian faith and simplicity to focus on what matters most.
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