Since July, we’ve been in the hospital something like 4ish months total. Ugh. But I’ve figured out a few things to make life a bit easier when you’re living in the hospital. Hopefully this helps someone else during their longer stays. These aren’t really in any particular order. Except the first one. That one is definitely meant to be first.
- Mattress Topper
Anyone who has ever slept on those pull out sofa beds in a hospital knows that this is the ultimate game changer for hospital life. The concierge at Cincinnati Children’s sells a foam egg crate mattress topper for cheap, but you can find them at any store or on Amazon. This takes your sleeping arrangement from ‘might as well be sleeping on the ground’ to ‘I’m still not sleeping with all the commotion of hospital life, but at least I’m doing it comfortably.’ Take what you can get, right?
- Sleep Mask
This is something I need to do instead of my current trick of a washcloth over my eyes. There are just sooooo many bright lights, it can be so difficult to shut down for the night.
- Travel Humidifier
My family sent me a little travel humidifier that uses a water bottle as a reservoir and it made a big difference for me this last stay. Hospital air is just unbearably dry and I would find myself super congested with the occasional bloody nose every single stay. Evie also gets super dry and would have to be on humidity during the day to keep her trach from plugging up. This little guy has kept both of us feeling much better.
- Electric Kettle
This was also a gift this last stay and I absolutely love it. It’s broadened my meal and drink options quite a bit. If you get one, you can then get these things:
- Heat proof bowl with cover
There are lots of options out there. I think I ended up with a smallish pyrex bowl. You just want something that can handle the boiling water from the kettle and also be covered to ‘cook’ things.
- Instant Coffee
Yuck, right? Yes. But I did finally try and enjoy the Starbucks VIA Colombia. That, plus little half&half pods or whatever they’re called and some sugar and you’ve got a decent cup of coffee. When you’re basically surviving off caffeine, this is a great option.
- Update: Stainless Steel French Press My wonderful sister bought me a little 12 oz french press that I’m in love with now. It makes a very nice cup of coffee and while I’ll still keep the instant coffee on hand for those really crazy days, I’ll be turning to this more frequently. This is the one she got me and it makes a single cup of coffee and so far has worked with regular ground coffee (though you could get a little hand/electric grinder if you want to do things the right way. I’m too tired for the right way).
I’m not really a tea drinker in general, but it’s really nice when I’m feeling a bit under the weather. I’d like to try a few teas that are supposed to help you fall asleep during our next stay. I usually get in a bad cycle of staying up until I’m so exhausted my brain won’t race anymore and I can finally fall asleep. A beer or glass of wine would be my choice to unwind, but the hospital frowns on that by, ya know, banning it.
- Instant Oatmeal
You can buy premade packets/cups or make your own. Just throw ½ cup of plain instant oatmeal in a baggie with some brown sugar and salt. Make a few of those and then just add that to a bowl with a cup of boiling water, cover for a minute or two, and enjoy. You can add raisins, cinnamon, other dried fruit, chocolate chips, or whatever to add some variation.
- Instant Soup
Of course ramen, right? I’ve been playing around with making my own broth powder to avoid all the nastiness of the packet that comes with the noodles. Here’s one that’s similar. You could also add dehydrated veggies to your soup packets.
- Heat proof bowl with cover
- Hanging Toiletry Bag
I have yet to stay in a hospital room where the bathroom had actual surfaces to set things on. There’s maybe a few hooks, but it gets tricky trying to balance your toiletry bag on the corner of the sink while you brush your teeth. So get yourself a toiletry bag that has an actual hanger on it, not just a loop. No guarantee that you’re going to get a hook, but with a hanger you can find all sorts of places to hang it…hopefully. I found mine at Walmart, but there are lots of options everywhere.
- Streaming Device
FireTv Stick, Roku, Chromecast, something. Not every device will work with every hospital or TV, but man, when it does work, it’s great for you and your kid to have access to your Netflix, Amazon Prime, and the like.
- Extension cord
This is especially handy when you’re trying to charge a device that your child is using in their bed. Because let’s be honest, the last thing you want is for your not-feeling-good child to have to wait for something to charge. Now is not the time for lessons on patience and such.
- Vitamin C Drops
Really, supplements in general are good, but I sometimes feel like I’m going to develop scurvy during stays, so some extra Vitamin C is nice. I usually just grab the ones made by Halls since you can find them so easily.
- Things to Help You Hold onto Your Sanity
There is A LOT of waiting around during long hospital stays and you’re trapped in a teeny tiny room with just a TV for entertainment. A TV that your child has likely commandeered. And I generally don’t leave the room because 1) I don’t want to bring germs BACK to Evie, 2) If Evie is contagious, I don’t want to spread her germs around to other families, and 3) I don’t like leaving Evie with strangers. So I try to bring things along partly to make it less boring, but mostly to keep myself from actually thinking about what’s going on. Gotta rein in the panic.
Just some way to connect with the outside world. I finally bought myself a cheap Chromebook so I wasn’t plunking out blog posts or watching movies on my phone.
- Kindle/Nook/Reading App
I tried bringing a book or two in previous stays, but it never failed that whatever books I brought I didn’t feel like reading. Plus, I just don’t have room in my bag for books anymore. Check with your local library to see if they have ebooks you can download. I use the OverDrive app on my Chromebook to download books from our library and it’s nice having so many choices for free.
Just something to keep your hands busy. This last stay I had the hospital concierge pick up some yarn for me and I made little hats for the NICU. It helped me feel a bit more productive.
I need to do this, but I’m usually so exhausted that just the thought of exercising is enough to burn through my energy for the day. My family bought some resistance bands for me, though, so hopefully I can start using those at least a little because I’m tired of coming home and struggling to just go up and down the stairs.
Lots of chocolate. Just admit it, sugar is calming and when you’re just trying to not freak out, it’s incredibly helpful. A hospital bar for parents would be MORE helpful, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon so chocolate it is. I’m partial to the Dove Promises, but they do seem to mock me towards the end of a stay. Smile. Don’t let go of your dreams. It’s definitely a bubble bath day. Make time for yourself. Get a good night’s sleep. Why, thank you, Dove, I’ll get right on that. Jerks.
That nurse that just walked into your room was just walking in some other patient’s room and who knows what’s going on over there. As hard as the hospital works to keep things clean, the floor is always going to be its own little house of horrors when it comes to germs. Bring a cheap pair of slippers to wear in the room. You do NOT want your socks or bare feet on that floor and then in your or your child’s bed. And bonus tip: if you drop anything on the floor, CLEAN IT OFF! Cause yuck. Seriously. And bonus bonus tip: if you leave the room, wipe your shoes off before walking too far into your room. I try to keep the far side of the room as clean as possible since that’s where the majority of our stuff is.
- Things to Ask About
- Meal Cards/Menu
Every hospital does this differently, but find out right away what’s available for you. At one of our hospitals, we pay over the phone with a credit card or with cash when the meal comes. At the other, we buy meal cards ahead of time. If you are a breastfeeding or pumping mother, they may even provide meals for free.
- Concierge Services
Ask if there is a hospital concierge service available. I’ve mentioned it a few times, but Cincinnati Children’s has a team that will run errands, bring things to your room, deliver a cup of coffee, and more. Their particular service keeps your credit card on file and then charges you for what they bought plus mileage. They’ve been a total lifesaver for me during our stays since we’re so far from home.
- Delivery Menu
Ask the nurses if there is a list of local restaurants that will deliver to the hospital. Sometimes you just can’t take hospital food anymore, so find out what your options are for outside food.
- Parent Lounge
Most floors will have a parent room of some kind. They might have coffee, water, a fridge, and a microwave. Ask where it is and investigate. I’ll be honest, though. I only go when it’s absolutely necessary. I have no idea how careful other parents are about germs.
- Meal Cards/Menu
So there ya go. A random collection of tips. The next time you find yourself living in the hospital, hopefully some of these will help make the experience a bit more bearable. And if YOU have any tips, please comment with them! I’d love to hear other ways to improve our stays!
8 thoughts on “Hospital Life Tips and Tricks”
This is fantastic…I’m sad you’ve acquired so much experience as of late that has led you to write this but I am very glad you’ve shared your expertise. I’m sure it will help LOTS of folks!
Oh how I wish you didn’t have all these wonderful tips, but MAN…this is an incredible listing! Please know that we pray for Evie frequently — she’s on my mind constantly. Hugs to you and yours!
3M HOOKS are amazing for hanging in the bathroom to hold your hanging makeup bag and remove easily when your discharged
Great tips! We’ve had many extended stays as well and I love your list. I would add a couple things. Hospital pillows suck but I didn’t want any from my home in the hospital. I put two hospital pillows in one case & that really makes a difference comfort-wise. Also, we bought a couple storage carts (the kind with three or four drawers). Those helped keep things organized as people sent gifts in and also made transfers easier when we switched units. An added bonus was I kept one in the bathroom which increased our flat space in an area that typically doesn’t have any! Hope these help someone, love your list!
Ooo! Great tips! Thank you!
Awesome idea Jessica! Love the storage cart idea!
My son had a long hospital stay as a baby. Our hospital offered a community use kitchen with fridge, kettle, and microwave, I use to make whole micro – meals. One of my fave meals was gnocchi with cream sauce and salad. I would buy the salad kits so I had sauce, gnocchi cooks up great in the microwave and I would buy premade cream sauce for “hospital” food I loved it.
Thank you so much for this! Though it will be a planned stay and surgery, I can reasonably anticipate a stay of two weeks in CHOP this July IF everything during and after surgery goes optimally. New to this gig, I’ve never had an extended hospital stay and have just begun to wonder how on Earth to pack and plan for myself.