Sunday, June 19, 2011

How to make your stay in the hospital a better experience-7 suggestions

Well, sitting here enjoying my "Club MEDical Vacation" at the SFVA Hospital and a few thoughts about what makes the stay easier.

What is good about a long term hospital stay of two or three weeks?  Lots. . . 

 First, there is the club diet plan.  Having coming into the hospital a few pounds overweight (Oh, those 8 years of dex) working with the dietitian can be essential to getting things the way they need to be.  I find the food to be quite good; but I just have to eliminate some things from my tray; like the potassium and carbohydrates due to the renal function and high steroid blood sugars.  And, by time all those were eliminated, I was on about 800 calories a day.  Working with the dietitian took some time, but we finally tweaked it so that I would eat the food I could eat, and get snacks between times.  Another tip, if you have special needs, when you finally get the nutrition down right, and anticipate a future hospital visit, ask  the nutritionist for a printout. This will streamline your next stay. (Otherwise, it will take you about a week's time to get it right).

What else, oh, plenty of free time.  The key to preparing for a hospital stay is to bring all the things you think you might need to entertain yourself or make your life easier while staying in.  Most of us think when we go to the hospital we check in with the clothes we're wearing and maybe a book to read.  Now honestly, if you were going on a three week vacation, is that all you'd take?

Remember this is your "Club MED Vacation"  and in addition to all the free time, you won't have to do laundry or have all the daily responsibilities you usually do.  It's a great time to get to those projects you couldn't find time for.  I brought several craft projects and a laptop, and I'm finally starting the Blog I intended to start for the last year, and couldn't find time to squeeze in.

I thought I'd make a list of things I've found useful to bring, and things I wish I had, to make your stay more pleasant. If you arrive to find something is available, and don't need it, it can be sent home, but once you're captive, it's harder to get things in.

1) You can bring your own clothes. It is not necessary to wear the full Northern exposure gowns that the hospital supplies.  Bring pajama bottoms, sweats, whatever is comfortable.  Bring a pair of underwear for every day that you anticipate your stay.  For women, sports bras or tops are great for comfort and modesty, and don't have to  be removed for x-rays or EKG's...and they are more fashionable too.  Bring a jacket and light sweater.  I have been allowed to walk around the hospital grounds, and needed outerwear at times.  Bring a couple of hangers for anything you need to hang. Although many hospitals provide small closets with bars, often there are no hangers. And don't forget to bring a laundry bag for dirty laundry.

2) About Beverages and Snacks.  They will encourage you to drink lots of fluids while in stay.  Four pitchers of the water is about optimum.  Now, if you're like me, it's hard to drink that much plain water.  Bring your own flavorings for water.  The pour in packets that they have for water bottles are about the right size to give your water a little variety.  Pick your favorite flavors and enjoy.  If you are a tea or coffee drinker, bring whatever supplies you usually use with them. You cannot anticipate them having sugar, sweetener, creamer or Truvia, or even tea bags. Bring your own favorite tea or instant coffee. Put your supplies in Ziploc bags to conserve space.  Another thing.  If you don't bring a container to drink your beverages out of, know this, you will be drinking the water from a straw in the pitcher or paper cup about the size of mouth wash cup.  There are a limited number of hot beverage cups available, and the staff is good about bringing boiling water, but a better solution is to bring your own coffee mug, and one of the in mug water heaters.

Although many hospitals have some snacks for patients, if you have no diet restrictions, you can bring in your own snacks. Granola bars, nuts, seeds, anything in small packets works well.  You can also have a limited number of items that need refrigeration like pudding cups, yogurt, etc. The staff can mark it for you and put in the refrigerator.  Also, any whole fruits or sealed packages from the dietary tray can be given to staff for other patient use.  Just remember to pull it off before they take the tray.

3)  Personal Care.  Bring anything that makes you feel good and helps keep you clean. I brought make-up and although my family finds it foolish, I  put in on everyday. It just makes me feel better when I don't look a like I'm sick. Don't forget contact lens holders, solution, and a glass case if needed.  Baby wipes--these are great for a quick freshening up, using after the toilet, or taking off make-up.  Although showers are available, getting into the shower can be problematic if you share a room, or are attached to an IV pole.  And, of course, you have to ask for the towels.  A full bottle of a good moisturizer or lotion is another essential.  It seems no matter how high your liquid intake, your skin will still tend to dryness, and it can get quite itchy and uncomfortable.  Don't forget your toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, and conditioner, and a razor if desired. Many hospitals don't supply them, and it's always nicer to have your preferred brands.

4) Valuables-You can bring jewelry items, rings and earrings that you wear continually, but don't bring the occasional piece of jewelry. You can bring a purse or wallet and the staff can lock it up, but a better choice might be to bring small cash or a debit card for purchases at the local "souvenir shop". Most hospitals have a gift shop where you can make small purchases, and it's nice to get out of the room once in a while.  I've even managed to start some early Christmas shopping with unique items some gift shops carry.  Talk about killing two birds with one stone.

5) Entertainment- You can bring a laptop, DVD player, or Ipod and movies and games. Bring your cell phone. If the hospital is in a different area code than where you live, you will not be able to call long distance. If you absolutely don't have a cell phone available, often the hospital social worker can provide a calling card for outside use.  If you bring a laptop, make sure that the hospital has Internet access available. WiFi is often not available due to the security of patient records.  If your cell phone does not provide such service or requires a contract, an unlimited monthly broadband plan can be purchased from Virgin Mobile which is quite affordable and without a contract commitment.  Bring more than one project. If your stay is extended, you may want to switch around on projects. Don't forget all the things you need for your project, like scissors, needles, etc. Assemble it all in a large Ziploc bag.  Bring a note book and pens. This is useful for things that you want to remember to ask the doctor, tell family members about, or for budget planning and reminder notes to yourself about things you can't do while in hospital. If you have friends or family willing to help, your can use your notebook to delegate and remember who is taking care of what. Although you can bring books, many hospitals have a cart that will come around to patient rooms with paperback selections. I didn't bring any light reading, but did bring research books I am currently using, like "Google Blogger for Dummies"

6) Medications -Bring a list of all the medications, amounts, and times as well as any supplements you take. It's a good idea to carry this on a card in your wallet anyway. Do not bring your medications with you.  The staff will take care of anything you will need.

7) Bring an Attitude of Gratitude- Now most of us are not in our best form when in the hospital. We're grumpy, in pain at times, poked and prodded, and just generally don't feel good. Staff deals every day with patients who are rude, out of it, or just plain mean.  Certainly advocate for yourself, but be polite. Don't complain about the trivial issues and the legitimate ones will get taken care of more quickly. Ask questions, but don't whine.  They want you invested in your care without feeling sorry for yourself. Also, if you ask questions, you will be more informed and less fearful about what is going on.   If you have a real problem with a staff member, let someone know.  A nurse or CNA has no business being rude to you either, and they will assign someone else if there is a personality problem. In my experience,  I feel like I have been treated like a queen. Staff who has attended me on another shift will sometimes stop in from their current wing just to say hello. I don't often use my call button, but when I do, they come right away. Try to learn the names of your staff and address them as such. Treat them like people, not appliances.  Remember to say "Thank-you" and add a little extra, like "You do a great job, or I appreciate all you do," and mean it.  Focus on the positive.

You may not have chosen the time or the place for your "Club MEDical getaway" but you can actually enjoy the experience and make some new friends along the way.   Start planning your next vacation now!  I'd love to hear any  tips or ideas anyone else has.  All suggestions welcome!

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