By Lisa M. Petsche
Practical tips for when your parent is hospitalized
There’s a good chance your ageing parent will require hospitalization at some point, especially if he or she has any chronic health conditions. Over and above the additional rules that hospitals have with COVID, the following are some tips to help you be prepared.
What to bring
Be ready with the following paperwork to bring to the hospital: a list of current medications— prescription and over-the-counter drugs as well as vitamins and other natural remedies—and the dosage; health insurance information (be aware most insurance plans don’t cover private room accommodation); and a copy of any advance directive, living will or power of attorney.
Be prepared to provide the nursing staff with an alternate contact person in case you’re not available in an emergency. Provide as many phone numbers as possible—home, work and cellphone—to maximize the chances one of you can be reached in a hurry.
Keep a notepad and pen with you. (It’s wise to maintain a log of your parent’s diagnoses, past and present medications and any adverse reactions, specialists consulted, hospitalizations and surgeries.)
Clothing-wise, bring pyjamas, a robe and non-skid slippers for nighttime. For daytime, provide comfortable clothing that’s easy to put on, such as loose-fitting shirts, pants, skirts or dresses. If your parent is participating in physical therapy, tracksuits and running shoes are advisable. Don’t forget socks and underwear.
The following grooming items will also be needed: soap, deodorant, shampoo, a toothbrush and toothpaste or denture cleaner, comb or hairbrush, hand mirror and a disposable razor. For safety
reasons, patients are asked to refrain from bringing electrical equipment such as razors and radios into hospitals. If your parent is expected to stay for a while, you may be allowed to bring in certain items provided they pass a maintenance inspection.
Don’t forget to bring dentures, eyeglasses, hearing aids and prostheses. Keep in mind, though, these and other items are at risk of going missing. Bring a denture cup and eyeglass and/or hearing aid case for proper storage, and label or engrave whatever belongings you can. If your parent uses a cane, walker, or wheelchair, let staff know and be prepared to bring it in.
If your parent has short-term memory problems, leave on the nightstand a labelled notebook with a pen attached so relatives and friends can record their visits. Let the staff know it’s there.
What not to bring
For security reasons, don’t keep anything of value—cash, wallet, purse or jewellery—in the room. You might, however, wish to leave pocket change— no more than a few dollars —to cover the cost of sundry items, such as newspapers or snacks. Don’t bring in prescription drugs, over-the counter medications, or herbal remedies. Interactions with medications the hospital physician has
prescribed could prove harmful.
If you have a cold, flu or other contagious illness, refrain from visiting—otherwise, you might pass it on to your parent or others in the hospital who are already compromised and can become seriously ill. Telephone instead.
Limit visiting to two people at a time, especially if your parent is in a shared room. Speak softly in the room and hallways so as not to disturb patients who are resting. Exercise good judgment when it comes to bringing children under age 12 into the hospital and ensure adult supervision at all times.
Find out your parent’s schedule, and don’t visit around therapy times unless you’ve been invited to participate.
Consult with the nursing staff before bringing in food, beverages, or candy.
If you’d like to take your parent off the ward for a change of scenery, let one of the nurses know. Some units have a sign-out sheet at the desk.
When it comes to gifts, be aware that latex balloons are no longer permitted in most hospitals. However, Mylar balloons—with a shiny, metallic looking finish—are acceptable. Keep in mind that
flowers and plants are not allowed in intensive-care units. Before arranging for any get-well gift, please take into account space limitations in your parent’s room and consider holding off until he or she has returned home.
If you carry a cellphone, turn it off before entering the building. Many hospitals ban portable phone use because of potential interference with the operation of medical equipment. Some may allow their use in lobbies and lounges. Watch for signage.
Share the above tips with relatives and friends who are likely to visit.
If your parent is expected to remain in the hospital for more than a week, inquire about the availability of a parking pass.
Use this time when your parent is in good hands to give yourself a break from caregiving. Don’t spend all day, every day, at the hospital if his or her condition is stable. Recruit others to take turns visiting. To help your parent pass the time, arrange for television service, or bring in magazines and books or a portable CD player with earphones.
Communicating with care providers
Find out who the coordinator is within the health care team. Usually, it’s one of the nursing staff, known by a title such as ‘primary nurse’ or ‘case manager.’ This person will be your primary contact.
Maintain good communication with other family members, keeping them up-to-date on your parent’s status, activities and plans. (Addressing similar questions or concerns with multiple people takes professionals away from direct patient work.) If necessary, set up a conference call or request a family meeting.
If other disciplines—such as a physiotherapist or speech-language pathologist—are involved, ask the care coordinator for their name and telephone extension so you can contact them directly if needed. If you call, be prepared to leave a concise voicemail message that includes the best times to reach you during the day. If you’re hard to reach, set an appointment to talk via telephone or in-person.
Write down key information provided during conversations and at care conferences. Request a layman’s explanation if you don’t understand the medical jargon used, and always ask for clarification when you don’t understand information or instructions.
If you feel the need for emotional support for yourself or your parent, ask for a referral to a social worker. Questions or concerns about discharge planning should also be directed to him or her.
Lisa Petsche is a clinical social worker and freelance journalist specializing in health and seniors’ issues. This article originally appeared in the June 2008 issue of Fifty-Five Plus.
NOTE TO READERS: THE VIEWS OF THE AUTHOR DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THOSE OF COYLE MEDIA GROUP. THIS ARTICLE IS PROVIDED AS A GENERAL SOURCE OF INFORMATION ONLY AND SHOULD NOT BE CONSIDERED TO BE ADVICE ON HEALTH-RELATED TOPICS. THE PUBLISHER CONTINUALLY ENCOURAGES READERS TO TAKE
ALL SOURCES OF INFORMATION INTO CONSIDERATION WHEN IT COMES TO MAKING DECISIONS ABOUT ALL ASPECTS OF HEALTH AND NUTRITION