How to let people know you're still recovering

If you’ve recently returned home from hospital, some people may think that means you’re back to full health. But the recovery process can continue long after you’re discharged. Here are some tips to help you manage their expectations.

Be generous with the amount of recovery time you give yourself

You may underestimate how long you need to recover and overestimate your ability to perform when you’re not 100 per cent. It’s important to listen to what your doctor recommends, and re-evaluate along the way.

If you took two weeks off, but you reach day 10 and still can’t get out of bed, it’s important you make the arrangements to extend your recovery time. For example, if you work you may find it helpful to advise your employer of the anticipated recovery time, and agree to touch base while you are on leave to discuss your progress in case you need to extend your leave. Most workplaces would prefer you take a few more days off sick and stay home than come in too early, be unable to perform at work, and delay full recovery. 

It’s also a good idea to think about things you may need done around the home (e.g. child minding, dog walking, gardening) ahead of time and make alternative arrangements before you go into hospital.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Your friends and family may try to do what they can to help you recover after a hospital stay. But sometimes what they’re offering to do isn’t what you really need. It can be hard to ask someone to stop one thing and start another, but ultimately they’ll appreciate being able to help in a more meaningful way.

You may also find yourself in a situation where you’ve said no to some help, but realise soon after that you actually need it. This is where it’s most important to swallow your pride and ask for that assistance that was offered earlier. 
Friends watching a movie

Give alternative suggestions for plans

Depending on how long your stay was, your loved ones can be really excited to have you home, or to take you out and do fun things to make up for the time you missed, not always realising that the recovery continues once you’re home. Instead of saying no to every invitation to go out, think of some alternatives that may better suit you at this time. Some easy ones are:

  • Movie night at home: you can find a new release or watch an old classic, now made even easier with the multitude of streaming services available
  • Pyjama party: instead of hitting the town, you can all hit the couch and play some games
  • Dinner feast: ask everyone to bring a dish (make sure you coordinate so you don’t end up with 5 lasagnes), or order in from your favourite restaurant. Click here for some great healthy recipe ideas!
  • Art classes: if you’re more of a creative type, suggest a painting or drawing night and marvel at your personal gallery afterwards
  • Pamper day: whether this means face masks and foot baths with friends or just taking turns with back-rubs, this can be a relaxing day without the drive (and the cost!)
  • Play-date IOUs: if you have kids, hosting a play-date might not be possible at the moment. Organise with another friend who has kids to host some days or nights at their place, and return the favour when you’re feeling better.

Explain how you’re feeling

This can be really hard and will vary from person to person, but often friends and family just don’t know why you can’t get off the couch. Having an open conversation about why you were in hospital in the first place (if it’s something you’re willing to share) and how that’s affected you can help others to better understand how you feel and how they can help you in your recovery. It can be difficult for friends and family to ask exactly how you’re feeling because they don’t want to be intrusive. Initiating the conversation can help to break down that barrier.

Put yourself first

At the end of the day, it’s ok to say no. Looking after yourself is essential in the road to recovery and sometimes that means having to spend a night resting on the couch instead of going out with friends. It might also mean you have to rely on others more heavily than you’re used to, or that you can’t look after others in every way you usually do. But ultimately, giving yourself this time now might help speed up your recovery, so you can get back to having fun with everyone else. 
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