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communicate with icu patient conscious but assisted for breathing


my father, 79, is currently in ICU, has a tube in his mouth to assist his breathing, for 48 hours.

He is on and off awake and sleeping. He can move his eyes, he can move his fingers and can hear us.

I am trying to see if there are ways to get him to ask questions, communicate with us.

I am thinking of easy ways to get him to choose letters from alphabet to form words and then sentences.

Any advise is welcome,

5 Replies

When I was in ICU I was given a pen and a board to write on. The nurse held the board. I could move my hand just enough to scribble on it. I couldn't see what I was writing, because I couldn't lift my head, but it was enough to ask " Where am I? What happened?"

Your Dad will be very frightened and probably hallucinating, so hold his hand and explain to him where he is.

It would help if you could write a diary for him so that when he's home again he can make sense of all his confused memories,

. My daughter did one for me, and it has helped me a lot. I still read it at times, after three years.


thanks, his hands are still not moving. only fingers are. so he still on and off/awake.

we'll try that later.

for now, i was thinking a paper with letters of alphabet, and I move my finger against them until he squeezes to select a letter my other hand to try to form words and then sentences.


Hi, patchworker is quite right. Diaries can be a great help later on and are definitely recommended.

Writing can be incredibly hard. Even if you are given a pen and paper (and can see it), the muscle loss from critical illness can make it very difficult to write at all, let alone for it to be readable. A letter board is a good idea but it can be very tiring to spell out every word so having common words and questions is helpful.

Here's an example of one that gives a reasonable idea of the sort of things that you might want to cover: but you may find something better by Googling 'patient communication board'


II was given a notepad as I had a traci so could not speak my hands totally seized up. My writing skills on a good day are poor but while in ICU hard work. A word board would of been great for me. Once I got home and could sit at my PC it took many days to type with pain and have now got mild arthritis in my fingers and quite bad swollen joints in my feet.


Your dad is (hopefully) out of ICU now but when I was in, something to do with my age (17) affected how the sedation worked so I woke up far too quickly even after a larger dose than I should have had but was still intubated and woozy so my nurses gave me a pen and paper to talk to them and my family, I don't remember much now but the notes also help me to put together the blurry days. I hope he gets well soon :)


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