Clip and Copy: Helping patients manage visitors

Overbearing friends and relatives can be hazardous to your hospitalized patients' health. Here are some tips for keeping toxic visitors at bay.

Hospitalized patients have something in common with heirs to large estates: People they haven't heard from in years suddenly want to spend a lot of time with them.

As a physician, your inclination is to protect your patients from well-meaning visitors who disrupt their rest and peace of mind. The patients, however, might relish the attention-or have difficulty asking relatives and friends to lower their voices, turn off cell phones, refrain from asking intrusive questions, or simply leave.

You can help by including this form [PDF]in the pre-admission handouts you provide. Besides advising patients that they don't have to tolerate obnoxious behavior in the hospital room, it empowers them to lay some ground rules, and makes it easier for you to step in and usher egregious offenders-those who arrive at a bad time, offer unwelcome advice, or wear out their welcome-from the room.