Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Preparing for the Hospital-What Caregivers Can Do

Well, this couldn’t have come at a more fortuitous time. My daughter is currently on the kidney transplant list (so if I disappear for awhile, you’ll know why) and National Family Caregivers newsletter came yesterday with the article “Be Prepared for a Hospital Stay”. I thought I was organized until we had our first trial run and I had to pack everything.

First and foremost, I’m bringing the necessary paperwork. This can vary by family but would include insurance and/or Medicaid cards, guardianship/advance directives, list of medications, etc. We’re fortunate in NJ to have paid family leave, but even in states that don’t have this, parents are eligible for the Family Medical Leave Act. I also brought a list of phone numbers I’ll need, including as schedule of future therapies, transportation, etc. I’ll need to cancel. Lastly, I’ve drafted both work and personal emails to hit send, especially if we get called in the middle of the night, in case we need to leave quickly so everyone won’t wonder if we’ve dropped off the face of the planet. And make sure someone has a spare house key (and maybe you need a pet sitter or just a plant waterer) and that you stop the mail, newspaper, packages etc.

So then down to practical matters. We don’t go anywhere so I had to actually get suitcases for each of us. Then I made a list for each person: clothing, meds., toiletry, and fun things like books (like we’ll have time). For my daughter I also packed security items like her pillow and stuffed animal but I had to wash them first!

So what did I find out? Even if I do laundry twice a week, we still don’t have enough clothes to bring unless we constantly want to pack and repack our jeans (don’t have too many since only wear on weekends). Ditto for things like toothbrushes, brushes, shampoo, etc. But it also helped me pare down what was nice to have (e.g. perfume, hand lotion, etc.) vs. what was essential. So now that is was a false alarm, we’re going to buy a few extra clothes and double personal care items so we can leave the suitcases packed which will make things easier when the time comes. I’m also keeping each person’s list in their suitcase so we’ll know that we brought everything back home. And don’t forget if your child is bringing an IPod or handheld videogame to bring the charger; ditto for your cellphone.

It’s helpful to ask the hospital social worker what you should or shouldn’t bring. Also, I went on the hospital website so now have a map of departments and where to get food, gift store, etc. I also found besides Ronald McDonald Houses, there’s an organization that helps with lodging, food delivery for both patient and family, and other support. Priority is given to families of Jewish faith since food is kosher but all are welcome. So I’m glad we have more time to fix what was missing and next time we’ll be ready!


National Family Caregivers Association
“When your loved one is hospitalized”

National Transition of Care Coalition-Guidelines for a Hospital Stay


Support for Families of children with life-threatening illness

National Family Medical Leave Act

Remain Hopeful,


  1. Thank you for posting this, it comes at a perfect time as our son is going for his first eye surgery this summer/fall. We're on the waiting list, they think it should be around Auguest or September. They said he'll probably only be in the hospital for one night so I don't think we'll have to pack much in the way of clothes, but this is still a good resource, thank you for sharing.

  2. Thank you for posting all of this information. I wish you and your family much health and success with the kidney transplant. You are so kind to think of all of us as you wait --

  3. To "Azeara" so glad this was helpful to you. My thoughts are with you.

  4. To "Elizabeth"-thanks so much for your kind words!

  5. Hoping they find the right donor for your daughter soon and that her transplant is a success.

  6. I was just thinking we need to reorganize our emergency exit plan too! I had to take my little one to the ER on Sunday, and it brought home the fact that we have become a bit too comfortable in our "new normal." Always good to be prepared. I was once a girl scout, so you would think I wouldn't forget this! :)

  7. To "Michelle" thanks for your kind thoughts!

  8. To "Kirsten" Yeah we have that "what passes for normal around here" too! Glad it could help and hope there are no more E.R. trips for your little one.