Question: My spouse is in the hospital and I can’t visit. What do I do?

I am sorry to hear that a difficult situation in normal times is even more difficult now due to COVID restrictions. I do have some advice and some resources.

First, I want you to take a deep breath. I mean it, right now, and again a deep breath. This high anxiety situation only becomes worse when our panic instinct kicks in. If you sense that you are beginning to feel out of control, BREATHE deeply and slowly. Within a couple of breaths we feel calmer, more in control and think more clearly.

There are resources to work with. The first line of help is right there at the hospital or Skilled Nursing Facility, the doctor, nurses and Social Workers/Care Managers/Discharge Planners. If you have questions about your spouse’s medical condition, don’t hesitate to ask these professionals. Their job it is to help you with this situation as their condition improves and changes. You can set up an appointment to speak with them over the phone. They have advice and expertise to give you help. Even if you don’t know what to ask, make an appointment, they will help to guide what may/will be happening in the coming weeks.

Another resource is family and friends. You may have relatives and friends to speak with them over the phone to help with the situation. They can be a support to you, even if they do not know the answer. That friend, or family member, could be an extra set of listening ears as you review options. I do recommend having a second person at appointments if that is available to you.

There are also many professionals who work within this field outside of the hospital who can be helpful to you, like someone at their doctor’s office. There are also programs and agencies in our community that do this all the time.

Senior Life Matters is one of those programs. Office For the Aging is another one. Social Workers, Geriatric Care Managers, or Case Managers are usually titles that you should be watching for. This usually indicates a level of professional training or expertise in the area of managing illness and care.

Each professional works in a different setting. For instance, if you call a facility and talk with their Social Worker/Case Manager, that individual can only tell you about what services their facility can offer, how much it costs to be there, and the process one takes to come there.

In other situations, these professionals are unaffiliated with a specific facility and can educate you to the many alternatives available to you in our region. Sometimes there is a fee for this service, sometimes it is government funded.

There is also the option of the internet. But it is important to understand not everything on the web (internet) is true! So I often recommend reaching out to a number of different resources, to get the information you need, to make the decision you are facing.

I want to reinforce is that in most situations you have time to review alternatives and options. You may feel pressured to make a quick decision, you can push back and ask for more information and other options available to you. The staff of the hospital and the facilities are there to help you through this. Work with them and ask them to work with you.

Very often the pressure you feel is self-induced. You feel like you need to make every decision TODAY. You don’t. Step back and evaluate what has to be decided now and what is farther away, next week, next month. Don’t worry right now about those decisions that are farther away.

This is situation is especially difficult because you can ‘be there’ next to your spouse at this time. I know you feel like they are ‘on the hot seat, and in trouble’. Take a breath. I know it feels like you are alone, but you are not. Others have done this before. Reach out and ask for help!

Senior Life Matters is a community based program sponsored by Lutheran Jamestown. For questions and concerns or to reach Janell Sluga, GCMC, call us at 716-720-9797 or e-mail at