Communicating With Your Family Member: What to Expect

You know them best; they are your child, your partner, your sibling or friend. And they are on an intense journey towards recovery. As much as is possible, and as much as it is healthy for your loved one, we encourage you to be involved in your loved one’s care. Your support and love is integral to the treatment process.

Upon admission, you will be given the phone contact for your loved one’s primary therapist, and at higher levels of care, for the nursing station.

Calling the therapists

The primary therapist will be the liaison between your loved one’s treatment team and family. They set up weekly family sessions and update you on treatment plans and progress weekly. The primary therapist will also let you know about all educational offerings for families. The Primary Therapist will respond to questions and requests as quickly as possible.

Calling the nurses

If your loved one is in residential or hospital levels of care, you will be provided with information you need to contact the nursing station. Nurses will respond as soon as possible to calls.

Phone calls with your loved one

Phones are a distraction during the treatment day, and, as most phones have cameras, they can pose a risk of making patients concerned that their words or images are being captured and shared. To maintain safety, confidentiality and strong environments of learning and healing, patients do not have access to their phones during the treatment day. We ask that you refrain from calling your child or loved during the treatment day. They are in intensive treatment programming and we want — and need — their full focus.

How to handle emergencies

In the event of an emergent need to interact with your loved one during the treatment day, please call the nursing station or front desk numbers and someone will help you. In the event that an emergent issue arises with your loved one in our care, we will call the person listed as their emergency contact. We will keep you informed and involved in the event of an emergency.

Sending mail to your loved one

You can send letters and cards to your loved ones. Patients who are away from home appreciate getting mail.

Contacting patients who are adults

Adults do have the right to determine with whom their protected health information is shared. Most involve their families in their care. However, adult patients can struggle with shame, feel like they are already too much of a burden, or they might just be angry related to their illness. In these cases, some adults will deny ERC staff the permission to share information with their family. If your loved one has not given us a release of information so that we can share information with you, then, by law, we cannot share information. However, if we know that a patient is struggling to involve others in their lives, this issue becomes a focus in treatment. The majority of the time, the patient will be able to allow their family to be involved within a week or two of entering treatment.

Contacting adults on evenings and weekends

Adults are allowed to have their phones with them in the treatment programs, however, they are required to keep their phones in their lockers or other provided safe places during the treatment day. If an adult has to use a phone during the treatment day, they can make arrangements to have their phone with them by clearing the request with their therapist. Adults can have their phones with them throughout the evenings and at set times on weekends, and are free to place calls as they wish. In the 24-hour levels of care, there will be a set time in the evening, usually around 10:00 p.m., when they are again required to put their phone away. This is to promote good sleep hygiene and create an atmosphere of quiet and relaxation for everyone. As a reminder, adult patients may not have given us permission to share any information with you, and they have the right to refuse contact. If, for any reason, you are not getting the contact you want with your adult loved one, and if you are worried and you are being told that there is no release of information, please call the number for the front desk and ask to speak to the clinical director so we can adequately address this issue. This is seldom an issue, and most adults and their families talk as frequently as they desire.

Contacting patients who are minors

If you are the parent of a patient who is a minor, you will be very involved in treatment. Weekly family sessions with your child’s primary therapist will focus on providing you with updates on their progress and support you while you learn about recovery skills. The primary therapist will involve you in educational offerings for families and work with you to plan visits. If you hold the insurance, the business office staff will work with you (not your child) to address any concerns. You’ll be also involved in discharge planning.

Contacting minors on evenings and weekends

Minors are not allowed to have their phones with them during treatment at ERC. We take our duty of providing for their safety and protection seriously. As a parent, you have the ability to set rules and monitor their phone use and their access to social media. We cannot provide this level of monitoring. Children are given access to phones on the care unit every evening and at set times on weekends. Phone use is monitored to ensure your child can make phone calls to only the numbers that parents have approved. We recommend you set up a time nightly, or per your preference time, for check-in phone calls. If you should need to communicate with your child, you’ll call the nursing station and they’ll support you to be in contact.

Visiting your loved ones

Visitation hours are set at each site, and you are welcome to visit during these times. You can address requests for visits outside set times to your loved one’s primary therapist.

Visiting with children and teenagers

People who are sick enough with their illness to require a treatment program will need to heal their nervous systems. They need rest and reflection times. We strongly recommend that you be very thoughtful about visitation times. Custodial parents can specify who will visit. Siblings might be an important part of a patient’s support and therefore it may be important to have them visit. In some situations, they may not want to. Often, siblings of a person who suffers with a serious illness have experienced that the parents put all their attention on the patient, and as a result, may be tired of being a support, or even angry about the process. We certainly want to work on these issues with the family. At times, siblings may not be appropriate for visits, and may need time and attention for themselves. Be mindful about visits with friends and extended family members. The patient is in a vulnerable state and we do not want them to feel they have to “entertain” or put on a show for anyone. If you have questions about visits, these things can be discussed with the primary therapist.

Visiting with adults

Adults can allow anyone they wish to come visit during visitation hours. There are some rules about children who wish to visit, but in general, no restrictions are placed on them.

A note about visiting your loved one

When it comes to visiting your loved one, please know that while we want to accommodate your needs, we also want to have your loved one not miss important programming. For this reason, we ask that you try to work within our visitation hours and structures. However, we know that life is complicated and we will work with you for special visitation needs.

Taking a break from visiting your loved one

Sometimes, we may recommend that you take a break from visiting — for a brief time — to allow you and your loved one time to rest and restore. This type of recommendation would be discussed with you ahead of time, and we would work with you to make sure you have a full understanding of why we believe this type of short break might help treatment. And, we will want to make sure that you are in agreement.

Supporting someone with a serious illness is hard work, and we sometimes see families becoming exhausted and overwhelmed. During these breaks, we would encourage you to focus on yourself by practicing self-care and taking care of and focusing on other members of the family. These breaks can do wonders and even help to foster independence.

You can also see and spend time with your loved one when you come on site for the family educational programming, like Family Days, that is offered at each treatment site.

We know that being away from your loved one can be very difficult. If you have questions about visits, please consult with your treatment team.

You are not alone

It is incredibly stressful to watch a loved one struggle with an eating disorder. We know how hard this is for your loved one. We know that it’s hard for you, too. It is extremely important that you practice self-care regularly, prioritizing your personal needs and the needs of your other family members while your loved one is in treatment. If you feel guilty or helpless while your loved one is in treatment, try not to blame yourself. You are only human.

Eating disorders do not develop overnight and it takes time to achieve full recovery. For now, one of the best things you can do is to offer your love and support and to maintain hope that your loved one will move forward towards a full and complete recovery.

Eating Recovery Center is accredited through the Joint Commission. This organization seeks to enhance the lives of the persons served in healthcare settings through a consultative accreditation process emphasizing quality, value and optimal outcomes of services.

Organizations that earn the Gold Seal of Approval™ have met or exceeded The Joint Commission’s rigorous performance standards to obtain this distinctive and internationally recognized accreditation. Learn more about this accreditation here.

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