7 Tips for Surviving an Overnight Hospital Stay: The Caregiver’s Perspective Part 2


7 Tips for Surviving an Overnight Hospital Stay: The Caregiver’s Perspective Part 2

building-931283_1920-1024x683Overnight stays at the hospital can be boring, tedious, and stressful. You are stuck in a sterile looking room with only a TV for entertainment and almost nowhere to go. People are constantly coming and going, machines are beeping, and the extra mattress you get to sleep on is hard as a rock and three sizes too small. I once spent the night on a mattress that wasn’t even as wide as my shoulders.

The hospital staff and the hospital is there to serve the patient, not the family caregiver and this becomes painfully obvious if you spend the night. Some hospitals and departments are better than others but most will treat you, the family caregiver, as a second-class citizen. This isn’t on purpose, it is just the way the system is designed and anyone other the patient is in the way. If you plan ahead and look for things out of the ordinary you can reduce the tedium and stress of hospital stays for both you and your partner.

What to do at the hospital

  1. Be extra nice to the nurses! They are the gatekeepers to everyone and everything, if they like you they can make your stay more enjoyable with small things and sometimes large things. After one of Kara’s surgeries I was allowed to stay the night (against hospital policy) because the nurses liked us, they told me to hide in the corner and they would pretend I wasn’t there. They know the hospital, the people, the policies, they have power and knowledge. Be nice to them and they will be nice to you. Besides, their job is tough enough as it is, everyone they deal with is stressed or worried -- this doesn’t easily make for a happy work environment.

  2. Don’t be afraid to take the mattress off of the pull-out bed, or whatever that thing is. There are a couple of different styles of extra beds you may come across and each has a different comfort level. If you get one of the old fold out types with springs on the bottom and a loose mattress, put the mattress on the floor and fold up the springs. The mattress may not be comfortable but at least it will be flat.

  3. Stay out of the way. The hospital staff has a job to do and anyone other than the patient is in the way. Be aware of where you and your stuff are so you can stay out of the way (or quickly get out of the way). By staying out of the way you will make the nurses lives easier.

  4. Go for a walk a couple of times a day. I have been to hospitals with 20,000 employees and hospitals with a couple of hundred employees, all of them have a place designed for people to sit and relax away from the hospital room. Go for a change of scenery and get out of the room. Wander and explore the hospital to see what is there, the exercise will be good for you, clear your mind and help you sleep better.

  5. Learn the nearby restaurants; they will be a welcome break from cafeteria food which you will get to know well because the hospital feeds the patient, not the caregiver. If you are nice to the nurses they will give you good suggestions. You can even offer to bring them something.

  6. Be courteous to your roommate. Not every room is shared these days, but if you do have a shared room be aware of what they are doing. If they are sleeping or have visitors, turn down (or off) the TV. Likewise, if you have visitors don’t let them be loud and boisterous taking over the entire room. Treat them the way you would want them to treat you. Don’t be afraid to ask them to turn down the TV; after all, it is a shared room.

  7. Try to have someone relieve you for a few hours a day. As family caregivers it is common for us to feel that no one can do a better job of caring for you partner than you. If you are like me you do not want to leave your partner alone in the hospital room. Try to have someone relieve you for a few hours so you can get away, go home, get a shower, nap, a little exercise, or see the kids. The break will do you good mentally, emotionally, and physically. You are there to support you partner and if you are not clear-headed and alert you cannot support your partner to the best of your abilities.

What would you add to my list?

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The most important one for me was be nice to the nurses. I have had them bring me soft drinks and coffee when they bring something for your loved one. They can definitely make a big difference while you have to be there. The other things are important too. Again as in Part 1 you have done a great job!