f your mother or father is in the hospital, you're probably wondering what you can do to make their stay a little easier. Hospitals are built for the staff, not for the patient, and they are notorious for being sterile, cold and uncomfortable, especially for the seniors in the hospital. Not to mention the bad food.
Caregiving in the hospital has many benefits for a hospitalized parent. Anything you can do to bring the outside world into your parent's hospital room will ward off the austere and gloomy environment and help them feel better. Go over your list with the patient's primary nurse before you bring in these items.
- Pack a bag with clothing and hygiene items. Go to your parent's home and pack a bag of their pajamas, bathrobe, hairbrush, toothbrush and a cozy blanket. You can even bring in their bed sheets. If you've been a patient in the hospital, you might remember the scratchy sheets that are provided.
- Pack a portable DVD and MP3 player with headphones. Your parent's hospital room will have a TV, but he or she will likely have to share it with a roommate. Bring in some of your mom or dad's favorite music, DVDs and audio books. These all help to block out ringing phones and noisy roommates and can provide a sense of comfort and peace even if your hospitalized parent is in a private room.
- Magazines, newspapers and books are also good for the recovering patient. Perhaps your mom has a new book she was reading that was left at home or an unread letter waiting to be opened. You can also bring in a laptop computer if your parent is up for reading email or searching the internet. This helps to enhance a connection to the outside world for seniors in the hospital.
- Bring one or two photos of your family to rest on your parent's bedside table. This is to comfort your hospitalized parent, but it also serves a key purpose: to humanize your mom or dad to the nurses and doctors. You want each medical staff member to see your parent as a human being with family, friends, a job and life, not just as the shoulder surgery in room 209.
- Bring antibacterial gel to be placed at the patient's bedside. Ask everyone, including doctors and nurses (they can be the worst offenders!) to use it before touching your parent. You can also create a sign that is placed on the wall above the patient's bed asking everyone to wash their hands before touching the patient.
- Buy a few thank you cards. Bring in thank you cards for your parent to address to his or her primary nurses. This should be done while your parent is still in the hospital. Expressing appreciation goes a long way with nurses who often take care of too many sick patients and work 12-hour shifts. This can also help maximize attention for the patient by increasing goodwill.
- Bring in your parent's favorite meal. Ask the patient's primary nurse if it is okay to bring in a favorite dish of your parent's before you do this as there may be dietary restrictions you are not aware of. You'd be amazed at how much a good meal can help a patient feel better in a less than appetizing environment. And sharing with a roommate (if okay with the primary nurse) can lead to a nice interaction.
Hopefully your parent won't be in the hospital for long, but remember that caregiving of this kind will help make the time pass faster.