Any hospital stay is a challenge for your whole family. Still, with the right preparation you can make it safer and more pleasant. Here’s a three-part plan for making the best of being hospitalized.
Planning and Packing
- Choose the right hospital for you. There’s a big variation in the quality of care at individual hospitals, and different facilities excel in treating different conditions. If time permits, consult your doctor and go online to research your best options.
- Calculate your insurance coverage and out-of-pocket expenses. Determine what private insurance and Medicare may cover by reviewing your policy and the relevant websites. When it comes to arranging post-hospital care, most insurers pay only for temporary skilled care and only if you’re homebound.
- Keep your paperwork handy. Keep important information in a paper file or on a flash drive. This includes insurance cards, lists of medications you take, emergency contact numbers, and any written power of attorney or living will.
- Decide what clothes to bring. Most patients will need sleepwear, robes, and underwear. You’ll be changing into street clothes when you get discharged, so bring both slippers and shoes.
- Take along personal items. Pack the basic toiletries including deodorant, moisturizer, and toothpaste along with a razor, toothbrush, and comb or brush. You may also want a hand mirror. Remember your medications, eyeglasses, or hearing aids.
- Keep yourself entertained. Books, needlework, and snacks can make your stay more pleasant. If hospital rules permit, you may also be able to use your laptop or portable media player.
Protect your valuables. Theft can be an issue in hospitals. Leave your jewelry and credit cards in safe storage.
How to Communicate With Your Care Team
- Get to know your care team. Partner with your care team immediately, including the doctors, nurses, social worker, discharge planner, patient representative and billing staff. Your primary physician may be able to play an advisory role even if other specialists perform your treatment.
- Understand your rights. You have the right to refuse care and get an explanation of the benefits and risks of all procedures. Be observant and ask questions.
- Ask a loved one to oversee your care. You’ll be under significant strain so it will be nice to have a friend or relative look out for you. If no one is available, most major hospitals have patient advocates who can help you communicate with hospital staff.
- Discuss your medications. Medication errors can be prevented. Tell the staff what medications you take and the dosages. Give them details of any adverse reactions you’ve had in the past.
Arranging for Your Discharge
- Understand the benefits of going home as soon as possible. Hospitals are under financial pressure to discharge patients, but it’s difficult to return home while you’re still in pain. However, there is an upside. Going home reduces your risk of hospital-acquired infections, and regaining your mobility helps protect you from potentially deadly blood clots.
- Rent home hospital equipment. You may need hospital beds, commodes and other items. Get them installed before you arrive home to ease your transition. The hospital discharge manager may be able to advise you.
- Arrange post-hospital care: Depending on your condition, options range from rehabilitation centers to home health aides. Even if you live with your spouse or in an assisted living community, you may need a skilled nurse for some functions. Talk with your care team about everything you’ll need to recuperate.
You can improve your chances for a healthy and pleasant hospital stay if you take an active role in your care. Plan ahead, get to know your care team, and start early to make arrangements for your discharge. Being proactive will help make your hospital stay more comfortable and speed up your recovery.