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How to Make the Most of Your Hospital Stay

Living with a chronic medical condition, such as cystic fibrosis, is not easy. Ideally, we all want to experience moments and phases where we can “get a break” from the never-ending routine of stressors. Sometimes, we may recognize that the added aspects of our routine cause stress; such as taking medications, completing treatments and/or following through with maintenance-type interventions.

Some people with cystic fibrosis have to occasionally go into the hospital for a higher level of medical treatment. This intervention can either be based on a structured plan throughout the year (i.e., getting a “tune-up”), or due to a sudden exacerbation of symptoms.

It may feel like no matter how much we prepare ourselves for the hospitalization, we may still worry that we will be missing out on life. This fear can lead to frustration, irritability and even forgetfulness about what may truly be important in taking care of ourselves during the “trip to Club Med.”

So, I have reviewed a variety of recommended lists on how to make your hospital stay the most comfortable and convenient as possible. Below is a detailed guide on things to remember to bring, as well as a few positive concepts to try to put into practice during your stay in the hospital to ensure healthy coping efforts and options.

Bring with you:

Your Own Clothes – Did you know that you actually don’t have to wear those barely-there hospital gowns? Focus on comfort and functionality. PJ bottoms, sweatpants, or even shorts are great. A button-up top of some kind, such as a PJ top or similar garment is ideal.

Remember that while you want to be comfortable, chances are you’ll be hooked up to monitors, IV machines or similar devices. This means that you, your nurses and doctors may need easy access to your arms and chest, so again, a button-up blouse may be ideal. Don’t forget extra underwear and socks. It’s also a great idea to bring some slippers or other easy-to-slip-on shoes, as well as a comfortable robe for walking the halls, or just going to the bathroom.

Hygiene Items – Let’s face it… Some hospitals are just nicer than others. Some have shower capabilities in each room, and some just have a sink and a toilet. You can breathe a sigh of relief if you actually have a shower in your room. If not, well, you’ll just have to make do the best you can.

Consider the regular trips in the same manner as going tent camping where you have to bring a basket of your toiletries with you to use the shared facilities. Either way, you may want to bring along your favorite shampoo, conditioner, body wash and lotion; anything to afford you the comforts of home. Sometimes, the simplicity of the old fashioned sponge bath will work just fine.

There may also be factors that make washing your hair difficult. Some hospitals will offer tips on creating plastic wraps to protect your IV from getting wet. But even with these available options, full shower bathing can be a bit more limited than usual. So, think about bringing along some waterless shampoo for regular cleansing. Of course, don’t forget your other basic hygiene items, such as toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, hair dryer, deodorant, razor, shaving crème and feminine sanitary items if you need them.

Medications from Home In the past, it has been possible to insist on using medications from home. There is nothing more irritating than paying twice for something you already have. However, recent hospital policies may dictate otherwise. So, try to bring your nebulizer meds, multivitamins, enzymes, allergy meds, applicable transplant medications and anything else you take daily. Talk to your doctor in advance about your preference to use your home meds. However, never take any of your own medications without making sure the hospital staff knows you’re doing it.

Entertainment Honestly, there is only so much TV a person can watch in a day; especially the same boring reruns all day, every day. Keep yourself from being bored by bringing along a variety of items to amuse yourself. Laptops, portable DVD players, E-Readers, video games/handheld players and MP3 players are all great choices. Don’t forget your chargers! Other great favorites include a deck of cards, coloring books and crayons, crossword puzzles, Sudoku puzzles, board games, books, magazines and other age-appropriate toys.

Even if going to the hospital has become routine, many of the circumstances about the stay can be unwanted, frustrating and even scary. So, consider bringing items that offer positive and uplifting messages and consider using them as room décor that emphasizes visual reminders of Strength, Courage, Faith, Hope and Love.

Have your family and friends help you to create a positive vision board (also known as a dream board or an inspiration board) which is a collage of words and images that make you feel positive and empowered. Creating vision boards can benefit you mentally and emotionally while your body receives the intensive treatment and works on healing and recovery. This can ultimately allow for a positive body-mind-spirit experience and hospital stay outcome.

Bedding – No one ever gets a truly good night’s sleep in a hospital bed, often because of the various sounds and distractions that can be easily heard from the nursing station (or the beeping of your own medical equipment). But, the more that you can make the bed in your hospital room feel a little more comfy, the better! Bringing along your favorite sheets, blankets, pillows and even an egg-crate pad can be a big part of sleeping a bit more soundly.

A few more tips: make sure your sheets, bedding and pillow are easily identifiable by either color, design, or by writing your name all over it a hundred times (lol) in black marker. That way, when housekeeping comes around, you’ll be sure that your sheets remain YOURS.

Also, a good tip for kids:* Bringing your favorite stuffed animal or a special “blankie” from home can keep you comfortable and secure while at the hospital. Be sure to wash your items well, before and after the hospital stay to reduce cross-contamination concerns.

Food – The CF dietitian or nutritionist greatly emphasizes getting the right amount of nutritional supplements and calories each day. We all know the hospital is required to provide each patient with three meals per day. However, many of us realize that the food is either not enough or simply not preferred in terms of our own likes and dislikes, as well as our high calorie needs. So, you may want to bring your favorite cereal, crackers, cookies, etc. for regular snacking. Many hospitals also have vending machines, so don’t forget to bring a bag of quarters!

More items to consider:
Fan or other noise machine (for drowning out weird hospital sounds)
Clothing hamper
Disinfecting wipes (for the phone, remote, bed rails, etc.)
Cell phone & charger, laptop, tablet (or other mobile electronic device & charger/s)
Air freshener
Extension cord
Laundry detergent and dryer sheets (for lengthy hospital stays)
IV/PICC line cover

What other ideas do you have on things to bring with you to the hospital and/or ways that you cope with the lengthy stay in the hospital? Making your next hospital stay more comfortable can go a long way in a having a more positive mind and body experience.

Posted by: Summer Katz, M.A., LMHC                                                                                                  Licensed Mental Health Counselor

*Disclaimer: This blog is provided for informational purposes only (including brief topic exploration or reflection) and should not be used as a substitute for professional mental health or medical treatment.

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