Staying in hospital is not a pleasant experience for anyone, but there are some simple steps you can take to make it a little more bearable.
1) Â Bring a Pillow
It sounds simple, but bringing your own pillow or pillowcase from home can make your stay in hospital more comfortable. The scent of your own linen will remind you of home, and the pillow will have just the right amount of padding to help you sleep (in my opinion, there is nothing worse than a soft flat pillow!). However, do choose an easily recognisable pillowcase so that it does not get mixed up with the hospital laundry- perhaps something bright and cheerful to boost your mood.
2) Â Wear Your Own Clothes
If you are able to wear your own clothing then bring a supply of comfortable pyjamas and lounging clothes from home- no one wants to wear a hospital gown unless they really have to. Try and pack short-sleeved items in case you need any intravenous fluids. To prevent the chills bring a comfortable snuggly cardigan to keep you snug (men as well!) Loose-fitting underwear, warm socks and slippers are other necessities to bring for your stay. If you are allowed to walk outside, a pair of regular shoes will come in handy.
3) Â Bring Things to Pass the Time
When you start to feel better the boredom will begin to set in. Check the hospitalâ€™s policy about electronic items before your stay, but bringing a laptop or an iPod can pass the time nicely- most hospitals have free wireless or charge a small fee for access to the internet. If you are allowed to bring a laptop, make sure it can be safely stored when you are sleeping or out of your room. If electronic items are not permitted, make sure you have an endless supply of books or magazines to keep you occupied whilst you are on the mend. Alternatively, you could take up a handy hobby like knitting!
4) Â Pack Important Documents
Bring a folder with all your important documents to present to your doctor when you arrive in hospital. You should pack an up to date medication list with dosage information, and a list of any allergies. If you have health insurance, bring all of your relevant documents in case you need to make a claim. Finally, include a telephone list of family and friends in case of emergencies.
5) Â Bring Tissues
This may sound like a surprising tip, but a plentiful supply of soft travel tissues will come in very handy for your stay in hospital. Hospital tissues may well be provided, but I know from experience that they are like cardboard! A packet of wet wipes are also good for keeping you feeling fresh and clean, particularly if you cannot shower or bathe regularly.
6) Â Be Patient
Hospitals run on their own unique timescale, and it is pointless getting frustrated when things donâ€™t happen on time. Be patient, be calm, and ride with it. Your doctors and nurses are doing the best they can, so treat all the staff with absolute respect. But remember, when you need help, be sure to ask for it- you are there to be taken care of.
7) Â Get Involved in Your Care
Bring a paper and pen for making notes or recording questions you want to ask your doctor- if you are not well enough to do this, pass the responsibility to a family member or a friend. Whilst things can happen slowly in hospital, remember that you have a right to know what is being planned for you in terms of tests and procedures. If you are not sure of what the doctor or nurse is talking about, then ask them to explain the information in a way that you can understand. It also helps to build strong relationships with the staff- write down the name of your doctors along with their specialities for future reference.
8) Â Use Hand Gel Sanitizer
Serious outbreaks of hospital superbugs are getting less frequent, but MRSA and C. difficile are still a big risk. Make sure all your guests use alcohol hand gel before and after they come and visit you, and use it yourself if you take a walk around the hospital. Most rooms and wards will have a plentiful supply of the stuff. Donâ€™t be afraid to ask your doctor or nurse to use hand gel before they touch you- politely of course!
9) Â Pick the Right Hospital for You
Hospitals vary widely in cleanliness and levels of care. If you have health insurance, then you can choose a private hospital to stay in based on its location, infection rates and facilities. Health insurance will also allow you to choose your consultant or specialist. However, if you need to go to hospital to see a specialist, you have the right to choose which hospital you’re referred to by your GP. The hospital at which you choose to see a specialist will probably also be the one where you receive treatment, should you need it. Do your homework, and follow the advice of your family, friends and your GP.
10)Â Â Don’t Bother Complaining about the Food!
Hospitals chefs are not out to make food as bland as possible, but unfortunately they have a lot of people to cater for and a very small budget. Rather than complaining about the food, ask friends and family to bring you meals in. Packing some small change will allow you to use the vending machines if you fancy a chocolate bar or crisps (remember to run these past your doctor before you start chowing down!) Most importantly, do not skip meals- they are vital to your recovery.
Armed with these tips you will survive your hospital stay and hopefully come out smiling!