Staying Overnight with Hospitalized Kids: Reduce Burden on Parents Who Have Seriously Ill Children

Nurses are responsible for the care of hospitalized patients. However, when children are hospitalized, exceptions are made to allow family members to stay there at night to care for their children.

But this situation places a heavy burden on the families, and various problems have arisen. It is necessary to create an environment in which people can have peace of mind as they deal with their children’s medical care.

Family members — usually the mother — are allowed to stay with their children in situations such as an infant being treated for a serious illness. Many of the family members become ill themselves amid such tough conditions as sleeping overnight in the same bed as their children and eating food from hospital shops.

It is essential for the hospital to take steps in these situations so that parents can stay with their children without any difficulties. Some hospitals provide parents with sofa beds and meals for a fee. Other hospitals are urged to strive to improve the situation for such families by referring to these examples.

Although government regulations prohibit family members from staying with hospitalized patients, if the patient is a child, it is possible for the family to stay if they wish and if the doctor allows it. However, even in such cases, the regulations state that family members cannot engage in nursing duties.

In reality, however, there are times when family members staying with a hospitalized patient carry out such tasks as feeding and helping children relieve themselves, and even managing intravenous fluids.

In certain cases, even if the family does not ask to stay with a child, some hospitals may request that parents do so.

According to a survey conducted by a private organization, 70% of family members who stayed with hospitalized children said the stay was required. Many of these people were required by the hospitals to submit a letter expressing a wish to stay with the children. It is problematic if the wishes of the families were ignored.

This situation is due in part to the shortage of nursing personnel. If some nursing duties are being left to parents to compensate for the shortage of manpower in medical services, this practice needs to be corrected. Measures should be taken to increase the number of nurses.

This problem has been pointed out for more than 20 years, but has not been resolved.

The Children and Families Agency said it will conduct a survey on the matter this fiscal year. The agency must ascertain the current situation and consider concrete measures for improvement.

When a child is fighting an illness, the sense of security that comes from having a family member by their side can help the child’s recovery. A situation must be avoided in which family members’ health is harmed due to their staying with the children.

Many parents become concerned about money, as they are forced to take long periods of time off work to stay with their children.

It is important for the government to establish a support system so that families can preserve their own health and keep working while their children are battling illness.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 26, 2023)