The Patient Who Receives No Visits

  1. 21

    I am assured that every nurse who has ever worked at the bedside has provided care for patients who never receive any visitors. Some of us are left wondering why this happens or how the situation evolved to be the way it is today.

    I'm certain that every nurse who has ever worked at the bedside has provided care for the patient who never seems to receive any visitors.

    In fact, the roles were reversed nearly five years ago when I was the patient laying in a bed on a women's medical/surgical unit at a community hospital in a large city. Even though my inpatient hospital stay was a swift overnight affair, I received no visitors. The facility was located almost forty miles from my home, so a friend dropped me off on the morning of my planned admission before she reported to work, and another friend picked me up at the time of my discharge after her workday had ended. In addition, I had no family members in the area. The vast majority of my relatives lived more than 1,400 miles away from me.

    In spite of this, my overnight hospital stay was so short that I did not feel lonely. On top of it all, I was so sedated from the narcotic pain medications that infused into me every time I pressed the button on the patient-controlled analgesia pump.

    Anyhow, some of us naturally wonder about the patient who receives no visitors. Many of these patients have adult children, siblings, and other people in their lives who reside in the same metro area based on the information provided on the face sheet. However, none of these individuals ever drop in or call to see how the patient is doing over the course of a lengthy stay at the facility. And when nursing staff or physicians desperately need to contact the next of kin, none of the people listed on the face sheet seem to answer their phones.

    Some people jump to conclusions and will exclaim, "How terrible! I would never leave a person alone in this world. Family is everything!" It is true that some self-centered adult children are willingly estranged from a parent who provided nothing but love, warmth, support, and happy memories during their upbringings. These situations are truly heartbreaking.

    In addition, other patients are modern-day recluses who actually prefer social isolation over interaction any day of the week. These people would rather have no one in their lives.

    However, we do not know the whole story. Nurses have witnessed family dynamics that are edgy or downright dysfunctional. Rather than remain in a situation that produces so much unhappiness and discord, some relatives cut themselves off from the person altogether as a way of emotional self-preservation. Dysfunctional family units are more common than many people realize.

    Some would say, "I would hope people show a little more respect for their sick family member than that!" But for many adult children, it is hard to be around the seemingly pleasant male patient who sexually abused them throughout their childhood and adolescence. It is almost impossible for adult grandchildren to visit the sweet elderly female patient who disciplined them as children by burning them with lit cigarettes and beating them with horsewhips. The smiling patient in the hospital bed is the same woman who, many years ago, disowned her sister for marrying someone of another race and rejected her brother for revealing he is gay.

    To come to the point, I try to refrain from criticizing the relatives who never visit, and I also try to avoid condemning patients, no matter how difficult or demanding they might be. I am cognizant that I might open emotional wounds if the wrong words come out of my mouth. Dysfunctional families are a familiar part of our societal landscape. If an insensitive nurse lectures about the importance of family, the chances are high that some people within an earshot have dealt with incest, beatings, addicted relatives, emotional abuse, and other unpleasant circumstances within their family units. For them, breaking free took courage.
    Last edit by Joe V on Mar 11, '13
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    rudycoon, lesliel, MBARNBSN, and 18 others like this.

  2. Visit  TheCommuter profile page

    About TheCommuter , BSN, RN

    TheCommuter is a moderator of allnurses.com and has varied workplace experiences upon which to draw for her articles. She was an LPN/LVN for four years prior to becoming a registered nurse.

    TheCommuter has '9' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'acute rehabilitation (CRRN), LTC & psych'. From 'Fort Worth, Texas, USA'; 34 Years Old; Joined Feb '05; Posts: 30,939; Likes: 49,715.

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    27 Comments so far...

  3. Visit  VickyRN profile page
    14
    Even sadder are the pediatric patients who receive no visitors. We try to make up for this on the pediatric floor by assigning students to be with these patients.
    Blue Jam, poppycat, IowaKaren, and 11 others like this.
  4. Visit  TheCommuter profile page
    10
    Quote from VickyRN
    Even sadder are the pediatric patients who receive no visitors. We try to make up for this on the pediatric floor by assigning students to be with these patients.
    You are right on target as usual, VickyRN.

    I had adult patients in mind when I wrote my piece. However, I do not see what a child could have ever done to deserve no visits, even if the child is institutionalized, has severe developmental disabilities or was given away by the birth family.
    Not_A_Hat_Person, sneeds, poppycat, and 7 others like this.
  5. Visit  amygarside profile page
    2
    Thanks for this enlightening article. It made me wonder why is it that some patients receive visitors more than others. I guess each one has their own back story that we will never know.
    visionary123 and imintrouble like this.
  6. Visit  anotherone profile page
    2
    Quote from VickyRN
    Even sadder are the pediatric patients who receive no visitors. We try to make up for this on the pediatric floor by assigning students to be with these patients.
    I was assigned to a few of these peds pts as a student. Some had deceased parents or parents in prision or where abouts unknown. etc. Everyone has their own story . I do not find anything suprising, nor do i judge people for not visiting. Some people choose to isolate themselves and have a small circle . Some curiosity to backstories. Have had pts for months with no visitors or even contact people listed. Many pts have listed "none" or "no one" as their in case of emergency contact. there have been plenty of media stories of people found dead in their homes who had been dead for years!!!!!! Actually, I am suprised when some have so many visitors for short stays!!!
    Fiona59 and imintrouble like this.
  7. Visit  uRNmyway profile page
    15
    And then you have the other side of the coin. Family members who ignore their parents while they are home, then all of a sudden when an end seems imminent, they come around and try to ingratiate themselves back into the will...or try to take them home so they can collect retirement, SSI, wtv, when parents are too demented to let on about elder abuse...Just as sad.
    Fiona59, MedChica, jmsnkids, and 12 others like this.
  8. Visit  imintrouble profile page
    8
    I'm almost glad that some nurses pass judgement on families that do not visit. It indicates to me that they don't have a clue, what kind of horrors can occur behind the closed door of the family home. They must have had a perfectly normal loving home life. They didn't experience fear, pain, shame, and then think that was normal.
    Good for them. I simply tell them, when they finish the "I can't believe nobody visits" rant, you don't know what went on during the first 50 yrs of this persons life.
    Fiona59, Not_A_Hat_Person, sneeds, and 5 others like this.
  9. Visit  BrandonLPN profile page
    10
    Quote from imintrouble
    I'm almost glad that some nurses pass judgement on families that do not visit. It indicates to me that they don't have a clue, what kind of horrors can occur behind the closed door of the family home. They must have had a perfectly normal loving home life. They didn't experience fear, pain, shame, and then think that was normal.
    Good for them. I simply tell them, when they finish the "I can't believe nobody visits" rant, you don't know what went on during the first 50 yrs of this persons life.
    I couldn't agree more. I work in LTC and some of my residents never receive visitors.

    But we don't know how these residents treated their children. Maybe they were alcoholics or abusive or deadbeats. Maybe they don't deserve a visit from their kids.and for some residents, if they treated their families as bad as they treat the staff, well, I don't blame the family one bit.
    amoLucia, Not_A_Hat_Person, sneeds, and 7 others like this.
  10. Visit  prnqday profile page
    0
    Very much agree Commuter.
  11. Visit  Poochiewoochie profile page
    5
    In my case it's just me and my Dad. I don't talk to the rest of my family because all they do is talk about the past and how horrible they had it growing up(one is still harping on the fact that my parents couldn't afford a nicer place than the VFW for her wedding reception when they had 4 other kids to worry about who were underage)

    To be quite honest I really don't enjoy the company of others. I have and always will be a loner. I like the freedom of going somewhere and being able to leave when I want to and not have to wait around until the person I came with decides to leave. So when my Dad passes I will be one of those patients that puts none when listing next of kin or who to contact in an emergency. But don't worry, I won't be lonely if I have to stay in the hospital.

    Another plus is that I don't have to spend a lot of money each month for a cell phone contract because I am such a social butterfly with tons of contacts.
    NBMom1225, poppycat, imintrouble, and 2 others like this.
  12. Visit  NurseDirtyBird profile page
    1
    Back when I was a brand new nurse in LTC, I had a patient who was very demented and we'd cared for him for about three years. We had never seen anybody visit him. His son was POA, but never did more than thank us for notifying him of care issues. When this patient was later dying, we finally met his children. There were 3 or 4 of them, I can't remember exactly, but we'd never seen them before. A daughter came to me in the hallway asking questions about her dad. I apologized and asked her name and her relationship to the patient. She told me who she was and said, "You're probably wondering why you've never met us before." I said I was happy to meet her now and that I was glad she could be there for her dad's last moments. She said, "No, you don't understand. We're not here to "be there" for my dad. We're here to make sure that (expletive) is (expletive) dead." She explained that he had been sexually and physically abusive to his family, and all were happy to see him go.
    I learned a couple of lessons that day after picking my jaw up from the floor. I learned that if family members don't want to visit a patient, it doesn't mean the family member is a bad person, and I have no right to judge them anyway. I also learned how difficult it was to objectively provide care for a person suspected of doing terrible things.
    Fiona59 likes this.
  13. Visit  leslie :-D profile page
    0
    Quote from VickyRN
    Even sadder are the pediatric patients who receive no visitors. We try to make up for this on the pediatric floor by assigning students to be with these patients.
    as a nsg student, i did my peds rotation at a chronic stay hospital, where all the children were wards of the state.
    some of these kids had debilities from birth, but most of them were kids that had been beaten so badly that damage was permanent and this was now their home.
    i tried to adopt a 2 yo pt i had cared for, and instead, got lectured about boundaries.
    (i understand it now, but hoo boy, back then it was tough to handle.)

    tc, you forgot to mention the hospital pt who just downright scares her visitors away.
    i had a scheduled overnight stay in the hospital a few yrs ago, and awakening from the anesthesia, all i wanted was something cold to drink.
    i ended up scaring/annoying my sons out of the room and my husband just stayed out in the hallway until i got what i wanted. ;p
    yep, i am one of *those* type pts.

    great article, tc....
    and instrumental for students to remember after they graduate.

    leslie
  14. Visit  Fiona59 profile page
    1
    I wonder why people have visitors for overnight stays!!

    Then on the other hand, I have patients who come down from the Arctic and expect everyone they ever met who lives within 250km of the hospital to come and visit. I remember one Princess who expected the Air Ambulance crew to delay her departure for six hours because she had made plans for lunch that day! Uhm, the crew was here dropping someone off, so they refuel, pick up and depart. If she wanted to spend $1200+ on a oneway ticket home, no probs. She left with the crew.
    anotherone likes this.


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