Packing tips for a hospital stay

“He went to the hospital and took a …”

A family member was recently in the hospital and it required numerous back and forth trips from home to hospital. It reminded me of a memory game from many years back. The game begins when one person — probably in a group of people sitting around a campfire, says, “he went on a trip and took a toothbrush.” A second person says, “he went on a trip and took a toothbrush and a comb.” And so on. Each person has to repeat the list and add something new. After awhile this becomes pretty challenging as the list of items gets longer and longer.

And so it was with our recent hospital experience. Each trip there meant checking in first to see what was needed, what other essential items needed to be brought from home.

After this hospitalization we started thinking about creating a second go-list for the non-essential comfort items that make a hospital visit easier. Previously we had put together a go-folder to contain the essential medical items from medication lists, doctors’ names, emergency contacts and advance directives. Making sure the hospital has all critical health and medical information is essential to ensure the best medical experience from the hospital stay. However, in between the care provided by nurses and doctors, and the various tests that were performed, a hospital stay includes hours of lying in bed. As a result many other things are important to have on hand.

In the case of my family member, a phone call prior to each visit led to requests for reading glasses and the latest magazines. Then there were requests for lip balm, electric razor, comb, slippers, dental floss, chewing gum, hand sanitizer, a notebook and pen, a deck of cards, a preferred brand of tea and sweetener. If my patient had been aware of the highly chlorinated water at the hospital, I am sure some filtered water would have been requested. Oh, and his cell phone and tablet to check emails. Almost forgot the charger was needed too. By the time he was discharged a couple of days later he needed a couple of bags to carry everything home.

Links to the all-in caregiving site and amazon page to buy book all-in caregiving by Christine Klotz

Any special equipment needed like a CPAP machine (used with sleep apnea) or assistive walking devices like a cane or walker are important at the hospital, too. Consider any other assistive devices like special pillows, braces or other helpful devices used every day. And don’t forget dentures and hearing aids. To help make sure everything you take also leaves to hospital after discharge, be sure to label the items that can be labeled – especially things like walkers and wheelchairs.

Here are some other things that might have be useful, depending on personal preferences.

  • Warm socks.
  • A sweater or sweatshirt for chilly, air conditioned rooms.
  • Reading material.
  • A small amount of money for vending machines.
  • A personal pillow. A colorful pillowcase will make it stand out and not be confused as one of the hospital’s.
  • Headphones or ear plugs.
  • Shampoo and conditioner.
  • A nail file.
  • Body lotion.
  • Pajamas or other comfortable clothes like sweatpants, depending on the circumstances.
  • Shoes and socks for taking walks in the hospital halls (important for minimizing the loss of muscle strength).

You can check with the nursing staff to see if you can bring in favorite snacks or beverages. It seems these days that hospital food has improved greatly but still familiar foods are appreciated. Be sure to check for information about special diets or the need to keep track of the intake of food or drink.

Your family member is not going on a vacation trip but he might find it helpful to have many of the items he would take on a trip because he will have a lot of time sitting around. Unless he is in a critical care unit his days will be filled with occasional flurries of activity and lots of waiting. There are just so many naps even a hospitalized patient can take.

Be cautious about bringing valuables to a hospital. Keep them out of sight when not in use. It is a good idea to let the nurses know about any valuable items like hearing aids and dentures, as well as any items that need to be plugged in to electrical outlets.

Taking the time to think about this in advance can help make a hospital stay easier and more comfortable. You should develop your own list of items to take to the hospital. A few minutes spend doing this now can can really cut down on the stress later.

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