Most people do not plan to go to the hospital, and if they do, they may think to pack shampoo and a toothbrush. While I hate to have my color stripped by institutional shampoo, I have some far more important tips to have a safe stay and speedy recovery that you can start TODAY!
Dr. Deb’s Helpful Hospital Hints
1.Have the Discussion with ALL your family
Many times we are scheduled to go to the hospital, but often we end up there as an unpleasant surprise. Today is Valentine’s Day and one of the best gifts you can give to your loved ones is to advance planning for medical emergencies. This is not just for the elderly, but for all.
A Living Will gives advance directives for different medical scenarios and a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care allows one person to make more specific choices if you cannot speak for yourself. In a crisis there are so many emotions and often it is the family member that feels most distant that will try to go against your wishes to resolve whatever existing conflicts they may have. Making your wishes clear to ALL family members today is essential. Every state has different forms and you can download them here.
2. Prepare a Medical Folder
Make a medical folder that contains copies your Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care in addition to a current medication list, including herbal remedies, with doses. Key word is current. It is also helpful to have a list of medical problems, past surgeries, allergies and a list of specialists with their phone numbers. Include your latest diagnostic test that is pertinent to your medical problems such as recent echocardiogram or EKG. Put this in a folder but keep a small copy in your wallet as well or consider an electronic record on a flash drive. My Chart is a medical record keeping system offered my many doctors’ offices and hospitals, which securely stores your medical information. You can logon via a website and they even have iphone and android apps.
3. Make it Safe
One of the biggest problems in medicine is the fragmented system. You must watch to be sure mistakes are not being made.
Write on your body yes and no on the limbs that are to be operated on.
Bring your own medications in a zip lock bag so you have them. Hospitals are often slow so you can take your medication from home if the hospital does not have it, but don’t take anything until you talk to your nurse.
Ask your nurse about what medication is being dispended EVERY TIME. Tell them your allergies EVERY time you are given medication to be certain there is not a conflict.
4. Be your Best Advocate
Ideally we would all have a medical advocate that would know your medical history and all your medications but actually YOU are your best advocate. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions.
A PEN AND PAPER is a must. Write down all the medicine they are giving you as well as the names and occupations of all the people that enter your room.
Most doctors only round once a day and usually when you are sound asleep in the early morning. Have a list of questions ready and take notes on the plan. Ask your doctor what test and medication changes will take place that day. You can double check that everything is carried out with your nurse throughout the day.
5. Be Nice
You catch more flies with honey and certainly being nice to the staff goes a long way. While it is important to be assertive, nurses have many patients and too much paper work so being kind and courteous is the best way to get their attention. Ask for your nurse’s name and how long their shift is. I also never found a nurses station that didn’t like treats so if you are generous it will come back to you tenfold.
6. Be Comfortable
Creature comforts are important so if you have time prepare a little bag or these can make great gifts if friends are admitted to the hospital.
Lip balm and Normal saline for the nose are critical as the hospital is so dry.
Ear plugs & Eye mask, as the hospital is not the place to rest with all the monitors and activity.
Glasses, hearing aids, and dentures so you can see, listen and eat.
Stool softener is critical for anyone taking pain medication. Ask for one as soon as you are given any narcotics or put some in your medication bag.
Hand gel, wipes and lotion will help you feel clean.
Pillow from home.
Personal Computing devices with caution: laptop, cell phone and iPod PLUS CHARGERS are great to have but there are sticky fingers in hospitals so don’t bring them unless you have an advocate that can watch them for you.
Toiletries; the hospital has shampoo and toothbrushes but you may like our own.
Ask for a private room: it is hard enough to get rest but with a roommate you never know how much noise they or their visitors will make. The cost of a private room is usually not that high and well worth the peace.
7. Get out of Dodge
The best way to get healthy is to get out of the hospital as soon as possible. This is not a spa vacation and requires work. Use inhaled sprirometry to open lungs and prevent infection. Walk as soon as they will let you. Ask your nurse to remove urinary catheter and IVs as soon as possible. For more tips read my previous blog on Surviving your Hospital Stay.
Happy Valentine’s Day! Instead of candy or flowers, give the gift of love and peace of mind.