The Family's Role in ECMO
Family members and friends are encouraged to visit while their loved one is on ECMO. However, the timing of visits by young children are usually discussed with the nurse ahead of time, so they can prepare both the patient, if awake and his/her children for the visit. Most hospitals also prefer that younger children meet with a child life specialist before visiting the ECMO patient, so that they can be prepared for what they will see in the room. For more information on unit visitation policies, please ask your loved one's bedside nurse.
Most family members feel more comfortable when they are able to "do something" for their loved one, and there are many simple things you can do to help the healing process. Below is a list of some of those things. Please be sure to check with the bedside nurse first to make sure it is safe to touch or talk to your loved one, and that he/she is getting enough rest.
- Talk, read, or sing to your loved one. All patients know the voices of people they love. Even if he or she is very sleepy, hearing your voice will help comfort him/her.
- Bring in some of your loved one's items from home, such as pictures.
- Play his/her favorite music.
- Rub lotion on your loved one's skin, especially hands and feet.
- Perform passive range-of-motion exercises. The physical therapist or bedside nurse can show you how.
From time to time, the ECMO team will hold family conferences to talk about your loved one's progress and any problems or concerns. These talks may include the ECMO team, a palliative care specialist, a chaplain, as well as family and or friends of your choosing. Family conferences can be called weekly, every other day, or as often as you would like. The ECMO team will also make rounds with the doctor in the intensive care unit every day, and you are welcome to join that discussion as well.