With the New Year starting, most people began 2020 by wishing their family and friends a happy and healthy new year. I know I did. As we get older, the fear of injury or illness is much more prevalent, and ending up in the hospital is the worst-case scenario for anybody. When we get a cold or just feel “under the weather,” as my dad would call it, a few days of rest, some Vitamin C and the remote control usually does the trick — but for more serious issues, the hospital may be the only logical option.
In the case of an emergency, the last thing on anyone’s mind is what to bring with them or take for a loved one for the duration of a hospital stay. It’s hard to figure out what you need during an emergency, where your primary concern is to get to a place where you can receive immediate help and medical care. Just go. You can always have someone bring these items later.
When one of my loved ones was in and out of the hospital, I learned from trial-and-error what she needed. I finally put together a bag of essentials and made a list of other items that would make her stay a lot more comfortable. A lot of times, the anticipated duration goes beyond what was originally projected, and it can be difficult to know exactly what will be needed and how much. A good plan is to bring a little more than you expected to use if there is an extension on the preplanned stay. In the case of a true medical emergency, get settled and then have a loved one get the items on your prearranged list. If you live alone, give an extra key to someone you trust so they can get whatever you need easily.
Most hospitals provide basic toiletries. If you prefer your own toothpaste, toothbrush and mouthwash, bring them. Ask in advance if your own pajamas or bathrobe are OK to wear after any procedures (if that is what you are there for), and even though the slipper socks they give you with the rubber bumps on the bottom are extremely stylish and safe, you can ask about wearing your own footwear or slippers. If they are skidproof, they should be acceptable. To me, a bathrobe is mandatory for warmth and preventing that embarrassing open-ended hospital gown. Again, check first to make sure you can indeed wear your own bedclothes.
Personal items, such as false teeth, eyeglasses and hearing aids should be in cases that can go easily into a nearby drawer. Leave jewelry at home. A list of all your medications is essential, if the hospital does not have your current chart, and if you take vitamins, ask in advance if you can take those with you. It will all depend on your doctor and what you are there for.
Food in most hospitals is edible. It is not gourmet, but there is usually something you can find to your liking. If you want outside food brought in, discuss that with the nurse, nutritionist or doctor because they monitor everything you eat for your safety and well-being. Enjoy that tasty green jello!
Not everyone in the hospital wants visitors. I liken it to having someone come over to my house and see me while I am still in my bed. The combination of no makeup and hair that sticks straight up like one of those old troll dolls is not the ideal way for me to accept company. Sure, I would want my husband there at all times and maybe the closest of loved ones dropping by, but if you intend on spreading some cheer to someone, call first to see if they are comfortable with a visit, and plan a specific time as to not catch them while they are sleeping, eating or with the doctor. The regiment at the hospital is not always conducive to spur of the moment visits. Limit your time when you go so the patient can rest and take your cues from them when to leave. If they start to nod off, take it as a sign to head out. “Rest” is the operative word, and being in a hospital is not always the easiest place to sleep.
Last but not least, if you have any allergies at all, including an intolerance for bedding washed in fragranced soap, let them know before you go, if possible. A lot of places have hypoallergenic sheets and pillow cases. If not, bring your own, with the understanding that those are to be used in lieu of hospital bedding.
Like any other emergency, being prepared in advance for a hospital stay is crucial. Make that list, write down emergency numbers and have your ducks in a row by letting those responsible for you while you are ill know what you need. It can make all the difference in the world for your comfort.
Marla Luckhardt is a Brentwood resident who works with several local senior care and advocacy groups. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.