Five days into my stay and I’ve learned a lot. I’m known as someone who keeps herself pretty busy, so I had many people worried about how I was going to mentally survive three weeks of confinement. I know I’m not quite a third of the way into my stay, but I think I’m doing pretty darn well. Overall my attitude is good, my spirits high, my mind busy and my body strong. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
TIPS FOR SURVIVING A HOSPITAL STAY
Stay out of the bed
The bed is great during the day, but it can suck you in. If allowed, stand, walk, get in the chair (“sometimes bedrest” can mean “chairrest”)
Obviously only if allowed. There is a lot you can do in a hospital room. Yoga. An exercise band (I have one that has a door strap so I can do some free standing arm curls and some door exercises. I highly recommend), Basic squats and lunges. Free weights.
TV- with caution
I could spend the whole day watching bad TV, episodes I’ve already seen, shows I don’t particularly care for but they’re on. My goal is to mostly watch either DVDs or Netflix when I’m watching, so that each show is something I purposely pick out and watch.
Say yes to visitors
Consider spreading them out, so you don’t have a ton one day and none the next. They are really the highlight of my day. Be specific if they ask to bring something. They will undoubtedly bring sweets (which one can only have so much of- they are great for pick me ups and snacks and sharing with the nurses). But if you want something else- ask- a certain magazine, lemon lime seltzer, whatever. If they’re offering, they usually will be happy to bring you something you’re jonesing for.
Have a to do list
A list of things you could do. Not necessarily something you have to do, but in those moments of boredom or anxiety, I can look at the list and pick something off it. I’ve tried making a daily to do list and I don’t get through most of it, but it’s a nice reference.
Bring comforts from home
I like my pillow and my fan. Important for me to sleep. And I have some microwavable rice packs that I often use to warm my cold feet at home. I haven’t needed them yet here, but today my back is a little sore and its nice to know I can heat one up to give me some relief.
Ask the nurses
They know about secret menus (apparently I can order a chicken quesadilla, though its not on the menu), egg crates (made a world of difference for my sleep), cots (a huge help for my husband’s sleep), physical therapy stationary bikes (this suggestion came from the chaplain- I haven’t looked into it yet but very cool to think I could have the option). Your relationship with your nurse can be very rewarding- they give you all the tips and you feed them all your extra goodies. It’s a win-win for everyone.
HOW TO HELP A FRIEND/LOVED ONE SURVIVE A HOSPITAL STAY
Can I visit you Tuesday morning? I’m bringing you lunch from Nica’s-what do you want? I’m at the supermarket, anything you need (shampoo, drinks, fruit)? Your friend will tell you if mornings aren’t good in general. Or if your friend knows you are bringing something, s/he can give suggestions (and doesn’t feel shy about asking). One of my first visitors did exactly that- said “hey, can I come on Sunday morning? I’ll bring something for breakfast around 9.” It was perfect. I knew when she was coming (could arrange visitors around her, knew not to order breakfast.)
Visitors totally break up the monotony. If you don’t know what to do during the visit, bring something to do- play a board game, cards, do a crossword together, bring a movie and just sit and watch. I’ve had many scheduled visitors and unscheduled ones (comes with being admitted in the place I work) and I love them all.
The general “call me if you ever want to talk” is a lovely gesture, but it’s too open ended. If you call and it’s answered, chances are s/he wants to talk. If you get a message, tell them to call you back or that you’ll call again tomorrow! Let’s them know you really are open to talking.
Ask about why s/he is there. Most likely s/he’ll want to talk about it- it’s what s/he thinks about all day and might want to share. If s/he doesn’t want to talk, s/he will let you know. For me, talking is processing. I’m usually pretty happy to talk.
Just like mail at home is fun, so is hospital mail. You can usually send things right to the hospital or to their home address if you know someone might be checking the mail for them. Cards, flowers and plants are usually pretty safe bets.
Sometimes it’s easier for people to type rather than talk. You don’t have to worry about interrupting them- you can both be on you’re own schedule.