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What We've Learned So Far - Tip #6: Surviving the Hospital

Sunday, January 22, 2012


A friend of mine's son is being admitted to the hospital this week.  She asked if I had any tips of things to bring to the hospital.  While I was looking for my list, I found this list I wrote last summer: Tips for Surviving Life In the Hospital.  I thought I would post in case others could use it:

Tips for Surviving Life In The Hospital

* Use a notebook.You may meet nurses, doctors or therapists in the hallway, or have them come to your room at random times of the day.  Carry around a small notebook so when you speak with one of your hospital specialists about important information, you will not forget what you spoke to them about.  This will also allow you to keep track of questions you may have or important information you will want to remember.

* Decorate your room.  Your child’s room at the hospital is their home away from home.  Consider purchasing children’s removable wall decals, flameless candles, an inexpensive lamp and/or a small vase of flowers to make your room feel less “hospital” and more “home.” Children love bright colors and seeing their name printed.  As an activity for your child, decorate a poster with your child’s name on it and place it on the wall. 

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Consider pleasing all of your senses.  Other ways to make your hospital room more “homey” include playing classical music or putting out good smelling potpourri.

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Communicate your needs through a sign.  Your nurse is there to help you and your child.  However, nurses typically take care of more than one patient.  And, nurses change every shift.  So, if there is something very important you want to communicate to all the medical staff, place a note on your child’s door for the staff to read such as, “Sleeping.  Be quiet” or “Patient Napping.”  This will help all visitors be considerate of use your child’s space and schedule.

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Use a sound machine in your child’s room to drown out typical hospital noises or other voices.

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Set a schedule.  Hospitals are a bit like casinos.  They run on a 24-hour schedule and often fail to provide patients a very clear idea of "day time" and "night time".  Create for your child a morning, mid-day, afternoon, evening and night schedule.  Turn the lights on in the morning and turn lights off in the evening to simulate day and night.  And, if possible, plan in-room activities (craft morning or afternoon game-time) so the child more naturally knows what time of day it is.  

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Keep family in touch.  A great way to share your hospital experience with family is through a blog.  The benefit of communicating through a website or blog is that you can update the blog/website at times which are convenient for you and friends and family can stop constantly asking “how is he/she doing?” as they have access to your information at their convenience.

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Don’t forget meal times.  Purchasing inexpensive microwavable plates, silverware and cups can help when friends or family join you for a meal.  Even if a meal has been provided by a fast food restaurant, it always feels nice to eat on a real plate.  Consider bringing plastic tupperware containers to keep leftover food.  Some families find purchasing salt, pepper, ketchup and other condiments make meal times easier.  You may also appreciate having dish soap on hand to clean any kitchen utensils you keep in the hospital.

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Make bath time more enjoyable.  Hospitals provide towels and sheets.  But there is nothing like having a nice fluffy towel when getting out of the hospital shower.  Consider bringing your own towels and bathmat from home.  You will also want to bring your own soap and shampoo.  Children often appreciate having their own toiletries as well.

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Toddler playtime is more fun with scooters.  If your child feels well enough, bring a toddler scooter to keep your active toddler happy.

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Create a play area for your child.  Children who are stuck in a small hospital room a lot of the day will appreciate having a carpet in the room to sit on or a small table and chairs to play at.  This is even more important for those children in isolation who cannot join the other children in the hospital play room.

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Sleep tight with your own blanket.  The best way to make the hospital feel like home is at night.  You might want to bring your child’s own pillow and blanket.  The more consistent the hospital room is to home, the more at peace your child will be.  For the hospital bed, you may want to bring your own soft sheets.  Hospital beds are longer than normal so when shopping, grab “extra long” twin sheets.  These can usually be found during “back to school” season at Wal-mart or Target.  Or, they can be ordered online.

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