Hospital visits for cancer patients and carers
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there may be restrictions on the number of visitors patients can have at some hospitals.
These restrictions are to protect vulnerable patients and staff but they can cause anxiety and distress.
Does my hospital have visitor restrictions?
Each hospital will have its own processes and procedures. You can visit their website to find out visitor hours, speak to your treatment team or call the general enquiries telephone line.
There may be different restrictions for different parts of the hospital and these can change at any time. It is okay to keep asking questions.
You can also speak to the treatment team or the nurse in charge about the best time to visit when the patient is available and most alert. Alternatively, you may want to arrange your visit when the treatment team is visiting the patient. Call ahead and speak to the nurse in charge so you know when that is going to take place.
Nominate a main contact person
The person who talks to the hospital about the patient’s stay and care is the main contact person, usually a family member, carer or friend.
Ensure that the main contact person can be reliably contacted. They should always have a mobile phone with them and the phone should be taken off silent.
Can I have an interpreter?
If English is not the first language spoken, you may need help with language support. People providing language support and interpreters are generally allowed to visit patients in hospital. Check first as not all hospital staff may be aware of this.
For free interpreter support call 13 14 50.
Get to know your treatment team
Knowing your treatment team and understanding their roles and responsibilities can help you feel supported. Everyone has different specialists and not all hospitals will have the same staffing arrangements so it’s a good idea to identify the key health professionals you should get to know.
Ask your team for:
- a list of key contacts at the hospital
- the best contact numbers (including after-hours)
- what type of information they can best help you with.
Arrange a telehealth appointment
You may not always be available at the hospital for specialist appointments or when the treatment team is visiting patients. Ask the treatment team to arrange for a telehealth appointment (phone or video call) to discuss test results, treatment planning and when the patient is due to go home.
Your treatment team will be able to give you more information about telehealth appointments.
Keep a diary
You may find it useful to keep an electronic record or diary to record:
- conversations about treatment and care
- potential side effects
- questions you may have for the next appointment.
There are also various health apps available to download that help you to keep track of your health information.
What community-based services are available?
Community health or hospital in the home services may be an option in which patients can receive treatment and care from home or another suitable location.
Some of the services which can be provided at home include:
What about religious and cultural needs?
You can ask to speak to the hospital’s Pastoral and Spiritual Care Service. They can arrange for someone to visit to provide for any specific religious or cultural needs such as ceremonies or prayer.
What if I am unable to resolve any issues?
If you are unable to resolve any issues directly with the treatment team, you can speak to eth manager of the area. Alternatively, you can contact patient liaison/advocate services. These are sometimes called consumer liaison services.
Should I have advance care planning?
An Advance Care Plan shows your care and treatment preferences. This will help family, friends and your doctors know what is important to you and what decisions you want them to make if you are not able to tell them.
For more information you can visit Advance Care Planning Australia.
When the patient is going home
It is a good idea to ask for written instructions for how to care for the person when they go home from hospital (discharge). The plan should include instructions for:
- managing pain and medicines
- symptoms to look out for
- who to call if you have any questions.
Where can I get more information and support?
Contact Cancer Council on 13 11 20 for free and confidential information and support.
Cancer Council Victoria has produced a number of bilingual resources. They are reproduced here with permission.
Browse the bilingual factsheets
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