graphic of hospital bed

Hospitals are known for bland food, cold temperatures and dry air — not exactly attributes that land a long hospital stay at the top of anyone’s bucket list. Notwithstanding, you don’t just have to give up on your hospital stay. There are plenty of things you can do to make your hospital stay comfortable, if not enjoyable. Here are seven tips to help you improve any hospital stay, long or short:

Pack a hospital bag of practical things…

Before leaving for the hospital, you’ll want to pack a small duffel or carry-on bag with essential items. Think travel size toiletries, hospital clothes and hospital socks, a sleep mask, ear plugs, a charger for your cell phone, disinfectant wipes and copies of important information such as insurance cards and current medications. You might also want to bring in some snacks and beverages since hospitals aren’t known for their great food. Just make sure to clear it with the facility first, as some hospitals have restrictions on outside food and drink.

…but don’t forget comfort items as well.

You shouldn’t limit yourself to just practical items. You’ll also want other things to bring you comfort and distract you as you recover. Easy entertainment such as a light novel or a comedy show downloaded on a tablet are great options. If you’re religious, having a favorite spiritual text with you might be beneficial. Personal photos of your loved ones are a nice thing to put on your bedside for a longer stay. If the hospital allows it, bringing your own blanket or pillow can comfort you with a familiar object and make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Manage your pain.

Even if you had a minor procedure, you will likely experience some pain in the days (or weeks) following surgery as your body begins the healing process. It can be tempting to tough it out with minimal medications, but it’s really important that you control the inflammation and pain as much as possible right after the surgery. This will allow your body to jumpstart the healing process, let you get enough sleep and potentially reduce chances of complications later on. After all, pain medications after surgery are usually time limited, so take them according to the instructions and then taper off them as your doctor instructs.

Be realistic about your visiting policy.

If you have a lot of family and friends, they are all probably going to want to visit you while you recover. While this might sound great in theory, in reality, you might not have the energy to welcome them all, especially right after the surgery. Even if you normally love seeing them, you might find yourself exhausted and irritable during the visit — and annoying relatives will push your buttons 10x more than usual. Don’t be afraid to limit visit times to 10-15 minutes and to limit the number of visitors you get each day or week. If there are particular friends or relatives that will stress you out more than cheer you up, don’t feel bad about delaying their visit until you are feeling up to it. Make sure that everyone knows the hospital’s COVID-19 restrictions as well, as this may impact the facility’s visitor policy.

Centralize your family updates.

Speaking of friends and family, keeping everyone individually updated on your progress can quickly overwhelm you or your designated helper. To make things easier on everyone, create a central text message chain or email group where you can update everyone once a day. You can also give updates every other day or once a week if you’re not experiencing very quick changes. Remember that you shouldn’t exhaust yourself trying to keep every great uncle and second cousin in the loop. Your focus during recovery should be you and your health, not everybody else — regardless of what guilt trips your family makes.

Have an advocate with you…

You will likely be groggy and disoriented after your procedure, and that may continue for some days depending on what medication they have you on. Even if you are lucid, you might be too tired to engage much with the doctors and nurses and ask questions about your health. That’s why it helps to have a dedicated person (usually a family member and ideally your legally authorized health care representative) with you who can do all this on your behalf. Ask them to take notes for you and then go over them when you are feeling up to conversation. They can also take down your questions to ask the medical staff the next time they come into the room, whether or not you are awake.

…but still participate in your care.

That being said, having an advocate is not a reason to sit back and check out of your own medical care. As your health permits, try being an active participant in your care. This starts before the procedure or treatment, educating yourself on what will happen and what the recovery time period will be. When you’re at the hospital, don’t be afraid to ask clarifying questions if you don’t understand what the medical staff is saying. Also remember that the nurse call button is there for a reason. If you really need help, you don’t have to wait for someone to come by your room to check in on you. Don’t worry about being a burden. You are the one in a hospital gown, not them, and they’re there to take care of you when you really need it.

Being proactive about your hospital stay before it happens can make a big difference in how it goes once you arrive. Follow these seven tips to improve your chances of a frustration-free hospital stay. Good luck on your procedure and we hope you feel better soon!

Image by Izwar Muis from Pixabay 

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