Guide to Prolonged Hospital Stays

Spending any amount of time in the hospital can be scary.

Prolonged hospital stays are often the result of inpatient procedures and planned surgeries, as well as unexpected emergencies. Here is how to prepare for a prolonged hospital stay.

What to Pack for a Long Hospital Stay

Hospitals do their best to provide some level of comfort to patients and their families, but the facilities are by no means a luxury resort. In order to feel at home during one’s hospital stay, here are the basic items patients should take with them to make their stay as comfortable as possible:

  • Comfortable clothing. You may be required to wear a hospital gown, but you should still pack your own clothes. Include several loose-fitting items such as t-shirts and sweatpants for the times when you can wear what you want or during discharge. Ask your doctor if it’s OK to bring your own hospital gown.
  • Toiletries. The hospital provides shampoo, conditioner and body soap. You are free to bring your own products such as toothbrush and toothpaste, makeup, face wash and other preferred personal products.
  • Hair ties. If you have long hair, don’t forget to pack your own hair ties, clips and bobby pins. Bring a hairbrush or comb to style your hair.
  • Medications. Pack all daily medications. This includes vitamins. Make sure to let the nurse know what medications from home you are taking during your hospital stay.
  • Shoes and socks. Bring a pair of slippers to walk around the hospital and a pair of flip-flops or water shoes to protect your feet in the shower. Bring your own pair of non-skid socks.
  • Cleaning products. Hospitals are clean but still harbor many germs. Bring a bottle of hand sanitizer to keep by your bedside. Also bring a pack of disinfectant wipes to clean off TV remote controls, door handles, bed remotes and other commonly touched items.
  • Cash. Hospitals normally require cash to make a drink or snack purchase from the vending machine. You can also bring your own food and drinks.

How to Reduce the Length of Your Hospital Stay

The reason for your hospital stay determines how long you spend under the care of doctors and nurses. If you start to become antsy and homesick during your time in the hospital though, here are a few ways that you may be able to reduce the length of your stay:

  • Make sure you’re in the right unit. To reduce your hospital stay, make sure you are being treated by professionals who have the most knowledge about your condition. This helps you recover faster than if you are in a less centralized care unit.
  • Consider alternative medications. If your current medication plan is not producing the recovery results you were hoping for, talk to your doctor and nurse about other possible options that can speed up your stay.
  • Look into at-home care. If you are on the mend but still need assistance, look into at-home care options. These are nurses and other trained medical professionals who come to your home and administer medications and monitor the progress of your recovery.

Transportation Arrangements

It is important to make sure you have a ride to and from the hospital before and after your extended stay. You don’t want to scramble at the last minute to secure a ride to and from the hospital. Your transportation arrangements should be lined up in advance of your stay.

Travel to the Hospital

On the day of your procedure, you will likely need to arrive at the hospital several hours before it begins. Ask a trusted friend or family member to drive you to the hospital. He or she can self-park in a hospital garage or take advantage of a valet parking option.

Travel Home From the Hospital

Depending on the severity of your surgery or procedure, you may not be able to drive home from your hospital stay. Regardless, it’s a good idea to have a ride home lined up.

As such, try to ask a friend or family member to pick you up from the hospital and bring you home. If you are in a wheelchair, your friend or family member needs to meet you in a predetermined designated patient pick up spot at the hospital.

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Book a Taxi or Car Service

If you are unable to secure a ride with a friend or family member, make arrangements with a taxi or car service prior to your stay at the hospital. Keep in close contact with the service to make sure you arrive at the hospital in a timely manner.

Non-Emergency Medical Transport Services

Some states and/or counties have specialized transportation services for non-emergency medical needs. Look into your region’s government services and see if it has one of these. You can generally find this information on a state or county’s official government website, along with hours of operation and contact information to make a pick-up appointment.

Before Getting Admitted to the Hospital for a Long Stay

In the days and weeks prior to your hospital stay, there are several things you need to do to prepare your home and personal life during your absence. You may not feel up for returning to your normal household duties after being discharged. Make sure to extend any care for at least several days after you are discharged from the hospital.

  • Pets. If you have a pet, make arrangements to board them with your veterinarian or local boarding company. Alternatively, ask a friend or family member to come to your house to check on your pet several times a day. You can also use a pet sitting service or leave your pet with a friend or family member.
  • Check the mail. Ask someone to stop by your home and collect your mail each day.
  • Clean your home. When you return from the hospital, you may be out of commission for several days. Hire a housecleaner or clean your home prior to your hospital stay. This way you can return to a clean and uncluttered space while you recover.
  • Stock the fridge. A day or two before your return, have a friend or family member go on a grocery run. Ask them to throw away expired foods from the refrigerator.
  • Household duties. Things like taking out the trash, monitoring the sprinkler system, watering plants and other everyday household duties need to be completed by someone you trust. Make a copy of your house key so that this person can have access to your home while you’re away.

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