Post Intensive Care Syndrome
What is Post Intensive Care Syndrome (PICS-F)
Also Known as Family Intensive Care Unit Syndrome (FICUS)
When a loved one is admitted to the ICU, the family suffers a great deal because of both the difficulty in seeing what their loved one is going through but also because of the “uncertainty of not knowing.” It is this latter part that oftentimes the patient herself or himself is spared from via the advent of receiving pain medications and sedatives that can make them unaware of what is going on and less likely to ponder the upcoming days’ events.
The family, however, is acutely aware of the massive number of things happening and yet at the same time confused by the steps being taken by the ICU team to monitor and care for their loved one.
How Does PICS Affect Family?
Critical illness is a family crisis. Feeling worried and confused can cause family members to stop tending to their own health. The care team may ask the family to make decisions about important, sometimes overwhelming matters. Because of this, 30% of family members may experience their own mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety and PTSD.
How Can Family Lower Their Chances of Developing PICS?
First and foremost, if you are a family member, take care of yourself. This cannot be stressed enough. Meeting your critically ill family member’s needs is a major part of care, but your needs are just as important. If you are well, you have the physical and emotional strength to support your family member and feel good about it. Eat well, get as much rest as possible, exercise, and seek support. The hospital has social workers, case managers, and pastoral caregivers who can help.
Take time to understand your family member’s illness and treatment options. Having this information will help you make decisions, feel confident about the decisions you make, and reduce stress. Ask questions, ask to meet with the care team, and keep a journal. Review the journal with a member of the care team whom you trust to make sense of what has happened and how you are responding to it. These actions can help you and the care team recognizes and respect your family member’s wishes, values, and preferences as much as possible.
Participating inpatient care is another way to support your family member and reduce stress. The bedside staff can suggest activities for those who want to be involved.