When an ambulance came to take Amy Goyer's mother to the hospital one night in 2012, there was no time to pack. Goyer grabbed some essentials and followed the emergency vehicle in his car.
An earlier stroke had left Goyer's mother uncommunicative, and her father's dementia made it difficult for her to remember important details. Both had their daughter answer the questions of her mother's doctors.
"There is a sense of panic and urgency," said Goyer, now 59, an Arizona resident. "You have one thing in mind and that is getting there."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 8 percent of Americans had to spend a night in the hospital in 2018. Meanwhile, according to the American Psychological Association, as of 2016, almost a third of Americans have cared for an elderly, sick or disabled relative. Many of these people may, at some time, require hospitalization.
If you have a chronic illness that requires frequent hospital visits, or if you are caring for a sick family member, consider packing a “travel bag” that you can grab when you go out the door. Goyer, who is the AARP care expert and has personally seen his parents and sister through numerous hospitalizations, said certain articles can make the experience more bearable.
"The creature's comforts are very important in the healing process," he said. “You might think that it's all about medicine and surgical procedures, but it isn't. It's about feeling safe, protected, comforted, loved and supported. "
Comfortable clothes and bedding.
Not all hospitals will allow you to bring your own bedding, but if you can, Goyer said, feeling and smelling your own pillow or a blanket from your home can be a great source of comfort.
"I had a very pretty, soft and fuzzy blanket that I started taking to my mother," he said.
Hospitals are often cold, he said, which some studies suggest may make it difficult for your immune system to fight infection. Pack a robe, slippers, socks, a hat and other warm (and comfortable) clothing to regulate your body temperature, in addition to resting and drinking plenty of fluids. This is important for both patients and caregivers who spend time in the hospital with them, he said. "The last thing you want is to get sick because you were in the hospital taking care of someone else."
All clothing should be baggy and comfortable, so you can easily enter and exit for IV or any test. Label everything with your name, so you don't miss out or forget it. Pack clean underwear and a change of clothes for the trip home.
A hospital stay is probably not the best time to try to address Infinite frivolity. To occupy your mind, bring something you enjoy, be it a magazine, a coloring book, a crossword puzzle, knitting or cross-stitch supplies, which won't be too strenuous.
If you have a spare phone, tablet or portable game console in your home, load it with games, movies, music, audiobooks, podcasts, special comedies or whatever you think will make you happy. Just don't forget the chargers. A high capacity power bank, an extension cord or a surge protector and extra long charging cables are also useful in case the outlets are out of reach. (These are Wirecutter's recommendations for the best chargers and quick accessories).
Anything that allows you to sleep
"Sleeping is always one of the most difficult aspects of being in the hospital," Goyer said. "And it's horrible because resting well is crucial for healing."
She recommends lavender quarter spray or lavender essential oil with a diffuser, as lavender aromatherapy can help improve sleep and reduce anxiety (although scientific evidence is inconsistent in any of the claims, according to a review Cochrane 2014). At least, it probably smells better than hospital air. A travel pillow can be useful if you need to sleep while you are resting, and an eye mask, earplugs and headphones can help block the beeps and flickering of medical equipment. If you have a private room and will not disturb your nurses and doctors, you can also bring a white noise machine (Wirecutter recommends LectroFan) or a Bluetooth speaker (Wirecutter recommends UE Wonderboom 2) to play relaxing sounds or music.
Think about how you or your loved one likes to sleep at home, Goyer said: "If they are used to falling asleep with the television on, let them do it." Whatever works. "
Surprisingly good snacks
Most hospitals have coffee shops and vending machines, but the food can be soft, unimaginative and unhealthy, especially if you eat it day after day. Your favorite nutritional snacks, be it a bottle of cold pressed juice or a can of sophisticated tea bags, can do a lot to make you or a loved one feel better. Just be sure to prepare any snacks by hospital staff, since most hospitals have restrictions on food and drink abroad.
Some treatments leave a bad taste in patients' mouths, so pack mints or chewing gum to keep your mouth fresh. And don't forget a bottle of water or a glass to stay hydrated, which is crucial for healing.
Tools for organization and empowerment.
Liwanag Ojala, CEO of CaringBridge, a service to connect patients and caregivers with other people suffering from a disease, said it is always a good idea to keep a list of the patient's medications and allergies, names and numbers for all doctors and specialists patient. and emergency contacts.
Goyer adds that if you are packing for a loved one, it may be helpful to print several copies of essential information: a scan of your insurance card, your medical history and your advance directives (also called a living will, which you can find on the site) AARP website). That way, he said, you have the information at hand if your phone or laptop dies, and you can give a printed copy to several doctors and nurses as needed.
If you know the technology, apps for taking notes like Evernote or OneNote can be useful for tracking doctors' updates and other information. But a paper notebook and pen work just as well, if that's what you feel comfortable with. With the permission of the doctor, a voice recorder (or a recording application on your phone) can also be useful for returning to conversations after you have had some time to process mentally. Document everything, Goyer said: "I guarantee you will have to go back and verify what happened three days ago."
Toiletries to stay clean and healthy
The basic basic elements such as deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste, contact solution, dry shampoo and facial and body wipes are essential for a hospital bag, especially because it can be difficult to shower regularly. Goyer also recommends bringing your own hand sanitizer, antibacterial hand wipes, toilet paper and facial tissues, as they will probably be more pleasant than what the hospital offers.
Disinfectant wipes are excellent for cleaning frequently used surfaces (and that are not cleaned frequently) as TV remote controls, to prevent the spread of infections. In addition, Goyer said, you should make sure you wash your hands with soap and water as much as you can.
"The hand sanitizer does not protect against some germs found in hospitals," such as C. diff or MRSA, he said. "My mother had an infection in the hospital that really complicated the end of her life."
The hospital air is notoriously dry, so you should pack moisturizer, lip balm and saline nasal spray, and drink plenty of water. When Goyer's mother had a sinus infection in the hospital, Goyer obtained permission from her doctor to bring a steam vaporizer to provide some relief.
Some hospitals will not allow you to take medications that you bring from your home, including over-the-counter medications, as a safety measure. But just in case, it is a good idea to bring some additional doses of any medication you are taking, as well as medical devices such as inhalers or hearing aids.
I hope that the contents of a hospital bag will vary according to the needs of the patient and the caregiver.
"What I would love people to do before packing a bag is to think about what helps them heal," he said. "Doctors are excellent at work, but they don't usually ask:" What do you think is going to help you? "