When you have a loved one with a blood and marrow cancer, you know that some hospitalizations can be long. A good deal of thought and planning goes into packing a patient for a hospital stay. But what about the caregiver? The hospital hours can be long for caregivers. You might even need to spend a night at the bedside in some circumstances.
What supplies do caregivers need to camp out in comfort at the hospital? Here are my top ten things to bring when packing for a caregiver hospital stay.
1. Your loved one’s medical documents and health history.
This should include information about their cancer as well as any other medical conditions they may have, lists of specialists involved in their care, details about recent treatments, and documents about advance directives or health care proxies if they have one.
It is always a good idea to have this kind of information collected and copies of it placed in an envelope beforehand.
2. Comfortable clothing.
You may find yourself curled up in a chair or perched on the side of a hospital bed for long periods. Bringing along some relaxed, loose clothing is a great idea. Yoga or sweat pants, a sweater and even some slippers can make you much more comfortable during your hospital campout.
3. Snacks and treats.
Hospital cafeterias are notoriously overpriced and sometimes the food is quite unhealthy. You may want to bring along your own healthy foods such as cereal, fruit, sandwiches or granola. But, don’t forget to treat yourself a little too- you deserve it!
4. Something to Do.
Your loved one may spend a good deal of time sleeping, or undergoing procedures that you can’t accompany them to. Bringing along an activity like a book you’ve been wanting to read or a collection of crosswords or Sudoku puzzles will help pass the time.
5. Cell phone or communication device.
With payphones almost reaching extinction, cell phones are handy for keeping in touch with family members and updating loved ones. If you have the technology, smart phones with email ability is also useful. If you have a bit of notice before the hospital admission, you might choose to load up with your favorite music or movies before you leave home.
6. Chargers for the above devices
There is nothing more frustrating than a room full of cell phones with no battery power.
7. Your own medications.
If you have medications of your own that you need to take regularly, you should bring them along so you don’t accidentally miss a dose. Don’t forget medications that you only take as needed, such as analgesics.
8. A few toiletries.
Being able to keep up with your grooming and hygiene while in the hospital can make a huge difference to how you are able to cope with stressors. Even being able to comb your hair and brush your teeth can keep you feel “normal.”
9. A small pillow.
Sleeping on a hospital stretcher or in a bedside chair is not really conducive to a rejuvenating rest. But rest is just what you need to keep up your coping skills, spirits, and support skills! Having a small pillow with you can at least help make the most out of a bad situation.
10. A notebook or journal.
One of the most important things you can do while caregiving in the hospital is to keep track of what’s going on. If your loved one is ill, they may not be aware or remember the comings and goings of specialists or what was discussed. Keep a notebook handy to jot down any new information or any questions that arise. You may also choose to journal about events and feelings that you experienced while your loved one was in the hospital.
Hospitals are certainly not designed for the comfort of caregivers at the bedside. Packing a small tote with the essentials can help you care in comfort and be the best support person you can be.