Recently I’ve been spending quite a bit of time in the hospital. Not myself personally, but first with my husband, and 2 weeks later, my father. When you find yourself waiting with someone for procedures, surgeries and recovery from surgeries, there is usually a lot of time spent waiting. Here are some practical things that I’ve learned- and hope that you can stay one step ahead if you find yourself in a similar situation.

When you are in the supportive role as friend, spouse, caregiver or son/daughter, you play an important part. Do not undervalue this. Some of the things you may be doing include:

  • driving to various appointments and procedures
  • translating at the hospital with staff
  • waiting with the person so they aren’t lonely (or too bored)
  • bringing snacks, books or magazines for the patient
  • checking on pets, children or other members still at home
  • providing childcare so that someone else may be at the hospital with the patient
  • being a point person (person of contact) with hospital staff
  • providing meals for other members waiting at home
  • preparing patient’s home for their arrival back
  • being a point person for updates for other concerned family members/extended family and friends

There were times when I was at the hospital for many hours at a time. The first time this happened, I was wearing my winter boots and skinny jeans. The next time this happened, I was dressed much differently. Yeah- it only took the once.

Personal tips on surviving a long day at the hospital

  1. Wear comfortable footwear. Something you can walk in for long distances, as parking is not always ideal.
  2. Wear layered clothes. The climate control in the hospital can be unpredictable from very warm to very chilly. Underline this point if you are having hot flashes due to menopause.
  3. Bring different types of cash: for parking, vending machines, coffee or snacks. Credit card is good too.
  4. Bring a deck of cards. There is no guarantee of WiFi.
  5. Bring a book to read. There is no guarantee of WiFi.
  6. Bring a thermos of coffee or tea or whatever (no alcohol!). When this is empty, you can rinse it out and use it for water, or tea.
  7. Bring a spare tea bag of your choice. I like to have both a caffeinated and herbal option.
  8. Have several little snacks that will keep at room temperature. Granola bars or protein bars, crackers etc.
  9. Make sure your phone is charged. Make sure your phone is turned off or on at the appropriate times. Make sure you can easily access your phone.
  10. Bring a pack of TicTacs or mints or something to freshen your breath.
  11. Bring a writing utensil and some scrap paper. You can write down any questions you may have, or you can play hangman at least.
  12. Bring your patience and compassion- not just for your patient, but for the staff too. They work long hours and deal with demanding patients already. The hospital is not a hotel and the staff is not a concierge counter.
  13. Small children should only be visiting for a short time. This is really best for all concerned.
  14. If you are waiting for a procedure during a weekend, be prepared for extra long waiting time- many services are not performed over the weekend and may be postponed to the workweek.
  15. Take little breaks to have a walk and use the restroom. It can be hard to sit for long periods.
  16. Wash your hands regularly- there are plenty of germs hanging around, including yours.
  17. Bring a small jar of hand cream- the hand sanitizers and soaps at the hospital can be very harsh on the skin.
  18. Be aware that the hospital may have regulations about fragrances in place- including flowers and essential oils.