LAST week, I wrote about what it’s like to be hospitalised, and how the experience can be stressful for both patient and caregiver. Rest and sleep can be quite elusive, unless you are given medication to help you rest. I suppose the severity of the illness and complications have a lot to do with it too. But it doesn’t always have to be that way if you know what to do, and what to expect.
When my daughter was admitted to hospital a few years ago, she actually enjoyed it and asked to stay another night. She had fallen and fractured her cheekbone. She was admitted overnight for observation.
Although one side of her face was swollen and bruised and she was sore all over, she wasn’t the worse for wear. She asked if she could stay an extra night there because she said the nurses were so nice. She received so much attention and she liked the room. She had never felt more pampered with everyone fussing over her. She even liked hospital food! With the medication and all that attention, she did not focus on her pain.
Extended hospital stays just for fun, however, is not the done thing as hospitals are always short of beds and doctors don’t encourage it.
To make your hospital stay more comfortable, you may want to pack certain essentials. At the top of the list are medications that you take on a regular basis, including vitamin supplements, and copies of medical information like X-rays, scans and records. Remember to bring your insurance card or letter of guarantee if you have one.
Next will be your personal toiletries, comfortable and presentable tops, sarong or pants, slippers and jacket, pashmina or dressing gown for when it gets a bit too cold for your liking.
Depending on how knocked out you are going to be, and the security of the hospital, I usually bring my laptop (which doubles up as my CD player) too. For my kids, I usually include books, magazines and a portable CD/DVD player to keep them entertained, especially if they are supposed to rest in bed and not move about too much.
Try not to bring valuables like jewellery and money. You may need to leave your room for tests and you do not want anything going missing in your absence. Remember, it is difficult for hospitals to monitor visitors during visiting hours. Most hospitals will not accept liability for the loss of personal valuables.
I usually bring a lockable bag just in case there are no lockers or a safe in the room.
When you arrive at the hospital and are sent to your room, the nurses will usually give you a quick run through of how everything in your room works and what you should do if you need help. If they don’t say anything, you should ask. If you are unsure of what is chargeable and what’s not, ask them.
One of the things people feel awkward about is pressing the call bell for nurses to help them. I’ve been told that some hospitals levy a fee for answering the call bell, but most don’t. After all, that’s what nurses are there for — to help you because you are ill. It is when you don’t ask for assistance that you may injure yourself.
My daughter tried to go to the bathroom with the IV bag and its stand trailing her. She forgot about the call bell. She said her head felt all stuffed up and she was confused. She was still sleepy but needed to go. I chided her for that. Anything could have happened. She could have tripped or slipped and fallen yet again, or she could have pulled the IV line off.
In most cases, you will most likely be on some kind of medication in the hospital. Your weakened state due to the illness can also make you unstable, especially for those who have just come out of surgery, or on painkillers or after childbirth. If you don’t have someone to help you, call the nurses. You should not risk a fall.
Most hospitals also have call bells in the bathroom. Use it if you feel dizzy. Many people feel shy about doing this. You should not feel that way. You are a patient and the staff in the hospital are there to help you.