Staying at a hospital can be overwhelming; however, preparing for the experience can help make this time away from home a little less stressful. The following is a general overview of items that you should pack before checking in to the hospital.
Talk to your doctor or hospital staff to find out which documents you need to bring. These documents can include insurance, Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, and identification cards. Please note that international patients may need to provide a different set of documents. Place your important documents in a folder that can be closed to make sure they do not get lost.
Ask your health care provider what medical information you should bring. This information might include a list of your medications, including the doses and schedule; medical records such as x-ray films and lab results; and a list of allergies. If the hospital gave you forms to fill out before arrival, be sure to have those completed and ready to go. Bring paper and pens to record any notes or questions.
If you have an advance directive, such as a living will or written power of attorney, bring a copy of it with you. Be sure to make your wishes regarding your health care known to your relatives and the hospital staff.
Clothing and other necessities
The right type of clothing can help you find comfort in a tiresome and sometimes stressful experience. Pack comfortable clothes such as pajamas, nightgowns, or lounge wear. Short sleeve shirts are recommended because an intravenous line will likely be placed in the arm. You should also bring a sweater, bed jacket, shawl, or blanket in case you feel cold. Furthermore, comfortable underwear, socks, non-skid slippers, and a pair of regular shoes could prove to be essential.
As far as toiletries are concerned, remember to bring a toothbrush, toothpaste, skin care products, deodorant, soap, shampoo, hairbrush, earplugs, lip balm, baby wipes, and hand sanitizer. Do not pack anything that is heavily scented. Furthermore, before coming to the hospital, be sure to bathe and remove any makeup, including nail polish. Check with your hospital before bringing electric appliances such as a hair dryer or electric shaver; some hospitals do not allow these. Finally, be sure to pack eyeglasses, dentures, or other assistive devices.
Even though hospitals are safe environments, theft can still occur. For that reason, it would be wise to leave jewelry and other valuables at home. In addition, be sure to label any personal items that do make their way into the hospital. Avoid bringing large amounts of cash. Some hospitals have rooms equipped with personal safes; you may want to find out if your hospital does before bringing valuable items.
Entertainment and decorations
During your hospital stay, you may experience some boredom or need a distraction. Thus, it is a good idea to bring books, magazines, journals, puzzles, games, a deck of cards, or stationery to help pass the time. Portable crafts that are not messy, such as knitting and stitching, also can be a good source of entertainment.
You may be able to bring devices to listen to music or stream movies; however, many hospitals have strict rules regarding the use of electronic items. Certain devices, such as cell phones, can interfere with hospital equipment and are banned in some hospitals. If cell phone use is not permitted, buy a pre-paid long-distance phone card and bring a list of phone numbers. Reach out to the hospital to get a full list of approved electronic devices.
If you’re going to be in the hospital for more than a couple of days, bring photographs, stuffed animals, or other mementos to make your hospital room feel like home. These, along with cards and flowers, can help make your hospital room more inviting and comfortable.
Following these recommendations while preparing for the hospital can help ensure a more pleasant hospital stay.
– K. Nair
For more information, ask your physician, visit www.mdanderson.org, or call askMDAnderson at 877-632-6789.
OncoLog, October 2015, Volume 60, Issue 10