Preparing for a hospital stay


Published: Wednesday, January 31, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 31, 2007 at 1:01 a.m.
When one thinks of planning for a hospital stay, thoughts focus on finding the best facility and doctor, researching the procedure, getting paperwork in order and covering the bases at home while you are "away."
Most of us don't consider what to actually pack for the hospital, but planning ahead can make your experience a bit more comfortable and perhaps less stressful.
We have discussed the benefits of a health care notebook (your important medical information compiled and filed in an easily transportable binder). Make this the first item on your packing list. In it you should have your medical history, list of your doctors with their contact information, medications with dosages, insurance information and health care proxy documents including a living will.
Bring a phone list of friends and family with a few copies to give to your advocates to make calls on your behalf if need be. If there are long distance calls consider a pre-paid phone card to use from your room telephone.
You will probably have to leave your cellphone home as it interferes with electronic patient monitoring equipment. If allowed, your own clothes have a better chance of covering what needs to be covered.
Loose fitting clothes and underwear are easier to get on and off and shouldn't interfere with sutures. Nightshirts or nightgowns are better for women. Avoid metal zippers or snaps in case you need an MRI, and front buttoning shirts with short sleeves will make it easier to accommodate IV's.
You can include a shawl or bed jacket to keep arms warm. Pack sturdy slippers. Better yet, the socks most hospitals give out with the rubber tread are great. See if you can talk a nice nurse into getting you an extra pair and don't forget to take them home. Men, if you need to wear the hospital gown rather than pajamas don't forget to bring a few pairs of boxers.

Use the following health organizing tips to enhance your hospital stay:

  • Bring a small amount of money, including change, for newspapers, vending machines and other incidentals. Put it in a little zipper case or drawstring pouch tucked in your suitcase rather than a purse that could be stolen.
  • Bring a pad and pen for keeping notes and jotting down questions for the doctor. A "write and wipe" board will be helpful if your ability to talk is hindered.
  • Pack your favorite toiletries and include your toothbrush. Include lip balm because you can develop dry, chapped lips from various procedures and medications.
  • Bring something to occupy your time in between the staff taking your vitals every five minutes - books, magazines, or a portable craft such as knitting.
  • If you are going to be there for a while bring a couple of photographs of family and friends to brighten "your room" and hang a calendar for orientation.
  • Hang a cute sign above your bed stating: "Did you wash your hands?"
  • Consider an eye shield to black out light when you are trying to sleep.
  • Explore hospital policy regarding electronic equipment. A CD player will reduce stress. Laptops and gameboys can help pass the time but need to be "sent home" at night to avoid possible theft.

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