Be Prepared: How this applies to hospital visits

By SAIL Member Christine Klotz

bright cardiac cardiology care
Hospital stays can be tough, but being prepared can make them easier on you and your loved ones. 

SAIL has a new Be Prepared workgroup focused on preparing guidelines to help SAIL members get prepared for life’s emergencies. The group is focusing on the times when you leave your home in an urgent or unplanned way on short notice — or none at all.

The objective of this SAIL workgroup is to establish some guidelines for what is often referred to as a “Go Bag.” That is, something you can grab on a moment’s notice that has all of your critical items. So when you head out the door with your Go Bag you have everything you will need.

We all hope we won’t face a flood or other external disaster. It is more comfortable to believe that nothing bad is going to happen. Believe me, I understand this. Chuck, my husband, says I inherited the “Klotz Forever” gene. It comes from my dad, who was always a positive thinker convinced that nothing untoward was ever going to happen. He paid handsomely for several bad and unexpected events that did come down the pike for which he was unprepared.

My own professional experience as a healthcare executive, in conjunction with personal experience, has amply convinced me that stuff does happen. When it does, being prepared can make a world of difference. It can even save your life or that of a loved one.

One of those unintended but seemingly inevitable events is a brief (or extended) hospital stay. So how do you prepare in advance for something like that?

You have probably already realized some of the obvious things you will need to ensure you get the care you need for the medical problem.

  • Health insurance cards.
  • Personal identification such as a drivers license or personal ID with a picture.
  • Your medication list, but NOT the medications themselves because the hospital will have a pharmacy service that can cover your pharmaceutical needs during your stay.
  • A copy of your advance directives (even if already in your medical record).

To help with your recovery and healing, and to make the whole experience less onerous, there are some other things you might want or need at the hospital. Many of these are things you use all the time so it is unrealistic to think you can keep them packed and ready to go at a moments notice.

A family member of mine was in the hospital last year. Before every trip to the hospital, I called him to find out what else he needed. (I had brought his cell phone in one of the first trips so these calls could be made.) And every call resulted in a new list of essential items. They included chapstick, a comb, the latest magazine, reading glasses, and his favorite tea and sweetener.

writing notes idea class
Make a list for your loved ones just in case they need to get things for you.

The one big truth about any hospital stay is that there is a lot of waiting. Waiting for tests, waiting for treatments, waiting to see if the treatments are working, waiting for doctors to tell you what is being learned and what to expect next, waiting for nurses to bring whatever is needed next, and eventually waiting for discharge instructions followed by the wheelchair that will take you to the front door so you can go home.

There are some things that everyone is likely to need during a hospital stay, and there are perhaps things more unique to you. If you use any special equipment like a cane or walker, take it. Also if you use anything like a CPAP (used with sleep apnea) you will need this at the hospital. There is a long list of other possibilities.

To make sure you have the items that will help you be comfortable, and better able to actively participate in your healing process, I suggest thinking about the items below and making a list of the things that are important to you. That way a family member or friend will have some guidance about the things you need and you will have them in hand more promptly.

Here are some of the less important (but nonetheless important) things you might need

frame less eyeglasses on newspaper
Make sure to have something to fill all of the waiting time!

or want.

  • Glasses for reading or distance. Even if you normally use contact lens hopefully you also have glasses.
  • Hearing aids and batteries.
  • Any other aids to help you hear or see.
  • Dental items like toothbrush and dental floss.
  • Dentures.
  • Slippers or house shoes.
  • Something to keep you warm if there is a chill including warm socks.
  • Somethings to do, like reading material, crossword puzzles, etc.
  • Pen, paper, and perhaps your address book if you don’t have that on a phone.
  • Cell phone (Don’t forget the charger!)
  • Headphones or earplugs.
  • Pajamas or comfortable clothes, depending on circumstances.
  • Shoes and socks so you can walk the hospital halls (moving around every day you are able will help minimize muscle loss from bedrest).
  • A personal pillow (be sure to bring a distinctive pillowcase to show it is yours).

What else is important to you? Make a note of anything you use often during the day or that will make you more comfortable.

You don’t want to bring any more personal valuables than absolutely essential. If you do bring anything of value, like a tablet or laptop computer, or even hearing aids, keep them out of sight when not in use. Be sure to let the nursing staff know what items you have brought to the hospital. They will also want to know about any items you plan on plugging into any outlets.

Since the things you will want with you in the hospital are, for the most part, things you use often, it isn’t realistic to keep them in a bag ready for any unplanned hospital visit. But do have a list prepared in advance that you can give to someone close to you. It will save a lot of time and stress for both you and your family if they know what you need and want.

Christine Klotz, SAIL Member

Thank you, Christine, for this very informative and helpful list! 

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