No one looks forward to a hospital stay. It’s stressful under the best of circumstances. So the last thing you need is for anything to drive up those anxiety levels even more.
Taking a few simple steps before your scheduled stay can help head off the mounting stress so you and your doctor can focus on what really matters… getting you better.
1. Don’t go it alone:
As soon as you know that there’s a hospital stay in your future ask a loved one to start sitting in on your doctor’s appointments. When you’re sick and under a lot of pressure it can be really tough to concentrate on what’s being said, and nearly impossible to retain everything that you’re being told.
But having a second pair of eyes and ears will help relieve some of the stress. Give your loved one permission to ask questions or request additional information. And when you check into the hospital introduce her to the staff and make sure it’s clear she’s your medical companion. Having someone who cares about you there to offer support will make this tough time so much easier to navigate.
2. Keep a list of questions:
Checking into the hospital is usually chaotic, and chances are the day you’re being admitted you aren’t going to get even a moment to stop and think. Write down any questions you have for your doctors and care team before you are admitted. That way you can be sure you get the answers you need no matter how busy things get.
3. Take a notebook and pen:
Between the stress, medications and exhaustion from the 24/7 activity of a hospital many folks find they end up feeling a bit fuzzy headed. A notebook to jot important things down will come in handy.
Use your notebook to record anything you don’t want to forget such as nurse’s names, meds you take, results of tests you’re given and any questions that you have.
4. Prepare a LIST of your meds and supplements:
Even if you and your doctor have already discussed the medications and supplements you’re currently taking it’s a good idea to take a complete list of them with you anyway.
When you’re in the hospital you’re likely to see more than one doctor, and interact with a number of caregivers from nurses to anesthesiologists. Having a list handy of ALL the drugs and supplements you regularly take can help avoid any dangerous drug or anesthesia interactions.
5. Bring your medications with you:
If you’re taking any prescription medications you should bring them with you to the hospital. Most hospitals recommend you leave them in their original packaging, and put all of the bottles into a Ziploc bag. Just be sure to tell your doctors and nurses that you have them, and get permission before taking them.
6. Have your documents in order:
No one likes to think about it, but the truth is any surgery comes with some risks.
Before checking into a hospital decide:
- Who you want to make decisions for you if you become unable to make them for yourself
- How you want the hospital to respond to a life-threatening event
Make sure the hospital gets copies of the documents when you check in so you can rest easy that your wishes will be followed no matter what happens.
7. Pack comfort items:
Let’s face it, hospitals aren’t the most comfortable or welcoming places. Bringing a little bit of “home” with you can make your stay a lot more pleasant. Consider packing a favorite pillow, blanket or picture of loved ones.
Check with the hospital to find out if you’ll be allowed to wear your own clothes. If so comfortable pajamas can make lying in a hospital bed feel a little less unpleasant. Just be sure you choose a loose-fitting two piece set that can accommodate monitors and IV’s as needed.
And don’t forget to pack some rubber-soled socks or moccasins. But leave the traditional open-backed slippers at home, which can be floppy and easy to trip over.
8. Bring your own entertainment:
Consider bringing an e-reader, tablet or laptop computer to help you pass the time. Don’t forget to pack a pair of headphones, and a charger too.
Some hospitals don’t allow patients to bring their own devices with them, so be sure to check before packing them. And if it turns out you’re not allowed to have your electronics pack a couple of books and magazines instead.
9. Arrange a house sitter:
When you’re in the hospital you should be focused on getting healthy, not worrying about things at home. Make arrangements for a house sitter to bring in the mail and take care of any pets and plants. You’ll rest easier with one less thing to think about.
There’s an old saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And that applies to hospital stays too. Checking into a hospital is never going to be any fun, but preparing for it ahead of time with a hospital checklist can prevent a lot of extra stress.