Today many surgical procedures are done as day cases. With advances in surgical techniques and improved methods of pain relief, it has allowed patients to recover at home and only require a few hours stay in hospital after their surgery. Make sure you make arrangements at home to accommodate your child’s recuperation. It may be useful to have a babysitter for other children, to have meals prepared and to have pain relief medication available at home. Before you leave hospital make sure you understand all the instructions given to you and that you know who to contact should your child not be recovering as expected.
What to take with you (for overnight or longer stays)
Staying in hospital with your child can be a stressful and worrying time. Understandably, parents are often so focused on their child that they think little about self care and the things that will make their stay easier. Be sure to contact the hospital ahead of time, to confirm you have all the appropriate documentation for your child’s admission. Calling on the day of admission is also advisable in case there are any last minute changes.
To reduce the inconvenience of forgetting even the most simple of items from home, it may be helpful to keep a bag packed with some basic supplies ready for an emergency trip to hospital, particularly for families who live some distance from the hospital, or who don’t have someone to bring extra things in for them. Whether you have a bag packed or not, it is useful to have a detailed list of all the things you would like to take with you. In the anxious time before a hospital admission, parents can often find it difficult to think clearly about the details of packing.
The following items have been suggested by other parents and may be a helpful starting point for preparing your own packing list:
What to take for your child
• Current medications: Do not assume that all your child’s medication will be available at the hospital.
• List all medications and dosages/strengths.
• Lists of child’s symptoms / doctors / appointments etc.
• Nappies and clothes for discharge (nappies and hospital gowns may be available on the ward during your child’s admission).
• Equipment such as orthotics, hearing aids, splints, tube feeding equipment, etc.
• Your child’s special toy(s) and books for comfort and any other activities they might enjoy e.g. pencils and colouring book, puzzles, plain paper, sensory and communication toys/devices.
• Your child’s pillow, quilt, blanket, night-light etc.
What to take for yourself
• Towel, hairbrush/comb, toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, cosmetics, sanitary products, shaving foam/blades (electrical items such as hairdryers are not usually permitted for safety reasons)
• Medication and/or dietary supplements
• Comfortable clothes
• Your own pillow
• Pen and notebook to write down questions for hospital staff, to record information that you learn, and to write reminders for yourself
• Water bottle (dehydration can occur in warm, air-conditioned wards, and you may forget to care for yourself when you are busy with your child)
• Mobile phone and charger, and/or change for pay phone
• A list of phone numbers you are likely to want to call
• Cash for meals /snacks / car park
• Convenient meals to prepare for yourself in the parent facility (e.g.: left-overs from home, pull top tinned foods, microwave meals)
Reducing your responsibilities
Try to arrange things at home so you can be totally devoted to your child when in hospital. For example:
• Try to put things in place to maintain the routine of life for those at home
• If you can, arrange to leave your other children with relatives or friends, or have someone come to care for them at home
• Accept offers of practical help from friends and family. Don’t try to do it all
• Put as many tasks/activities as possible on hold
• Record a message on your telephone answering machine/message bank to briefly inform callers what is happening, so that you won’t have to return calls, and callers know why you are unavailable
Staying on the hospital ward
Once your child has been admitted to a ward and you have settled in, there are many things you will need to know. Nursing staff can be busy and may forget to tell you some things, so ask lots of questions, both of the staff, and of other parents on the ward. Here are some questions you may want to ask:
• Is there a parent information booklet that I should have? How do I go about getting a copy? Is there information specific to this ward that I should know?
• Is there are map of the hospital for me to use?
• Where can I find showers and toilets for parent use?
• Where can I get a meal/snack?
• Where can I keep food brought from home?
• Where can I use my mobile phone?
• Where are public phones? Is there a change machine to get coins for the public phone?
• Where is the nearest Automatic Teller Machine (ATM)?
• Is there parent accommodation I can access?
• Are meal vouchers available?
• Are car parking concessions available for inpatient families and whom do I see about that?
• Is there a play therapist or a music therapist my child can access?
• Is there a playroom? Can I bring games to the bed?
• Is there a teacher/educational advisor I can access for my child?
• Are there volunteer visiting schemes?
Discuss with ward staff what care role you wish to play while your child is an inpatient. There are many tasks that may usually be done by nursing staff but that you may wish to do yourself. For example:
• Do you want to bath your child yourself, have a nurse do it, or do it together?
• Do you wish to give your child his/her medications?
• Do you want to change your child’s nappies?
Staying in the intensive care unit (ICU)
Staying on the Intensive Care Ward with your child is a little different to staying on other wards. For example;
• Security is greater, and you may need to identify yourself each time you enter the ward to be with your child.
• ICU is often a shared, open space with little privacy.
• Each child has a nurse to care for them on a one to one basis. Try to take advantage of this arrangement to have breaks and care for yourself, in the knowledge that your child is in very good hands and closely monitored.
• Take regular breaks for food and rest when your child is stable. Ask if there is a pager to use when you leave the ICU area so that you can be contacted at any time.
• Try to get a good night’s sleep, at home if it is close enough, or in the hospital parent accommodation.
• Do something relaxing at your child’s bedside, such as reading or craft.
• Arrange for family and friends to come and do a few bedside shifts for you, to relieve the physical and emotional burden of doing it all yourself.
Caring for yourself during your child’s stay
• Drink lots of water to reduce the chances of light-headedness and constipation
• Eat well-balanced meals whenever possible
• Have family or friends bring you meals and snacks; there is nothing better than fresh crunchy fruit and vegetables while in hospital
• Use the parents’ room for a break
• Go for walks to stimulate your body and your mind
• Get sleep whenever you can (e.g. while your child sleeps, or while someone watches him/her). Seek support from others, including your own doctor, if you have ongoing problems sleeping
Other Sources of Information
Apart from the ward staff, there are other sources of support and information to help you during your stay in hospital with your child.
• The hospital chaplain
• Social worker, counsellor, psychotherapist etc
• Patient advocate
• Other parents on the ward will have hints and tips on how they cope
• A play / music therapist or teacher / educational advisor might be available to assist your child with activities
• Hospital volunteers are sometimes available to help you by sitting with your child while you have a break
From the book There’s No Such Thing as a Silly Question.
Courtesy of inteACT.
Disclaimer: Articles are general comment, not advice. The information is believed to be accurate and reliable, but no responsibility is taken for any opinions expressed or for errors and omission. Readers should never act on the basis of the material without taking professional medical advice relating to their particular personal circumstances.