Information for families

Families play a very important role in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Not only can you provide your loved one's health-care team with important information, you can also play an active role in the care they receive. While your family member is in the ICU, you can:

Identify a family spokesperson

We know that access to information is one of the most significant needs of families of ICU patients, so we ask you to choose one person to act as your family's spokesperson. This person can call into the ICU every day and get the most recent update on your loved one's condition. The family spokesperson's job will be to then contact all the friends and relatives who want to hear updates on your loved one's condition. Having one person contact the ICU for updates also eliminates frequent calls which can pull nurses away from the bedside.

We recommend that the spokesperson not be the patient's spouse, parent or significant other. Having someone else serve as family spokesperson will allow the immediate family to focus their attention on their family member in the ICU instead of having the responsibility of calling or emailing friends and family with updates. 

If you have been identified as the family spokesperson, you can get a patient update using the following numbers:

  • Kidd 2 ICU East Wing: 613-549-6666 extension 7455
  • Kidd 2 ICU West Wing: 613-549-6666 extension 7811
  • Davies 4 ICU: 613-549-6666 extension 1311

When you call, ask to speak with the nurse who is providing care to your family member. Please remember, Kingston Health Sciences Centre must protect the privacy of all patients. Please let us know ahead of time the name of the family spokesperson as we can only provide information about a patient's status as allowed under the law. There may be times when a password is established to ensure the appropriate release of patient information over the phone.

Identify a substitute decision-maker

Because critically ill patients are often unable to speak for themselves, we often need to identify a substitute decision-maker. This will be a family member who will be asked to make decisions on behalf of your loved one. A substitute decision-maker must be willing, available, and capable of taking on this responsibility. If an individual does not meet these criteria, we will help you identify the most appropriate person. If you would like more information about substitute decision-makers or for more information on legal matters you may need to consider, click here

Prepare yourself daily

Prepare yourself every day for potential setbacks. Most patients in the ICU are on a roller coaster ride. Some days are good and some are not. You can concentrate on the steps your family member has taken forward and view the steps backward as hurdles that can be overcome. Try not to become discouraged. Like the patient, it is also normal for you as a family member to have both good and bad days. If you need support or would like to talk, you can ask to speak to a social worker or spiritual care advisor.  Also, remember to take care of yourself. There are a number of supports available to you during this time. To learn more about these supports and 'self-care for caregivers,' click here. We also have some tips available for you when you are spending time with your family member in the ICU, click here for more information. 

Take notes

Purchase a notebook and divide it into three separate areas.

  • In the first area of the notebook write the names of the intensivist, doctors, nurses, social worker, and any other person involved with the care of your loved one. Also, include all the phone numbers of the various people you would like to contact each day. 
  • In the second section of your notebook, write down your questions. Anytime you think of something you are concerned about, even if you don't think it is important, write it down. As your time in the ICU continues you may forget something or you may feel like you need to have information repeated several times before you understand it. This is normal, so please don't be afraid to ask for clarification.
  • In the third section start a journal. Some family members find keeping a journal of daily events, in and out of the hospital, to be comforting. It can also provide you with encouragement as you see small improvements over time.