14 Stress Relieving Tips for a Care Giver to Survive an Elder Loved One’s Hospital Stay

Hospital visits can be very stressful for care givers.  When our loved one must spend time in the hospital, they are in need of all of our attention and there are many questions to be answered.  How can we keep our stress levels down?  I’ve found being prepared ahead of time helps me stay focused on them and their needs, not overwhelmed with the extra stress of being uncomfortable because every thing I need is at home.

My parents are both dealing with different forms of dementia.  Emergency visits were common place for them before they moved to the Veterans Home.  Keeping information ready for emergency room visits was a must.  The list can be found here.

Before they moved to the Veterans Home, they had many trips to the hospital for extended stays.  Because of the dementia they became confused and slipped into delirium easily.  It is important for someone who is close to them to stay for at least a night or two for them to orientate to their hospital stay.  Doctors always seem to make their rounds very early in the morning.  I felt like I always missed the doctor’s rounds if I wasn’t there all night.  With so many trips to the hospital for both of them, I needed to be like a fireman who is always ready to jump into action mode.  I found a back pack to be very handy.  Packed with things I would need to spend a few nights at the hospital with them.  Here’s a few suggestions for this handy item.

1.  Extra undies, socks, toothbrush with tooth paste, mouthwash, hair brush, nail file, and face cleaner and lotion.

2.  Lip balm.  Hospitals are kept with very low humidity to hinder the growth of germs and bacteria.  The low humidity dries lips and skin out quickly.  Not only did I use my lip balm often, but it was a comfort for my loved one to have lip balm put on their dry lips.

3.  Feminine items.  Sometimes, stress can upset even the most regular ladies.  It’s best to be prepared.

4.  Portable Kleenex.  Hospitals are usually very good about leaving Kleenex in family conference rooms and waiting rooms, but a small portable Kleenex carrier can be tucked in a pocket and pulled out for those impromptu emotional moments.

5.  Small notebook or steno pad and a pen.  This is important for documenting the information you get from the doctors.  It’s handy to write questions you want to ask next time you see the doctor, etc.  Notes about what you are observing about your loved one to relay to the nurses and doctors.

6.  Your medications, prescription and over the counter drugs.  I found the dryness in the hospital gave me sinus headaches and headache medication is a must.  Added stress can turn a stomach into a raging acid producing machine.  Antacids helped me with this.

7.  Distractions from the boredom of a hospital stay.  Books, magazines, crossword puzzles, needlepoint, hand held games, or anything you enjoy to keep you and your loved one entertained.

8.  Most of us always have our cell phone handy, but the charger seems to get left at home.  Chargers seem to be universal and cheap anymore.  It may be worth the extra money to buy one to keep in the bag.

9.  Hospitals are no smoking zones.  Where I live, there’s a no smoking policy on the entire campus.  I’m not a smoker, but my husband is.  Finding a place to partake is next to impossible without getting in the car and going out of the hospital campus.  Nicolette gum or the patch is an easier fix.

10.  Comfortable shoes.  I can’t put enough emphasis on this.  Stress is bad enough, but suffering stress in a bad pair of shoes is horrible.  There can be a lot of walking, I suggest a comfy pair of tennis shoes.  In the evening, slippers can be a life saver for the tired feet.

11.  Dollar bills and quarters are wonderful for use in the vending machines.  Is always easier to have your own stash of dollars and not have to worry about getting larger bills broken in the middle of the night.

12.  A warm comfortable sweat suit or sweat pants and sweat shirt.  Hospitals are kept cooler because it inhibits the growth of germs and bacteria.  Even in the summer months it can get chilly.

13.  Simple snacks such as granola bars, apples, bananas.  Anything easily transportable that can help keep your blood sugar up when the cafeteria is closed.  Obviously, fruit will spoil if it’s kept in a bag pack for days, but granola bars last for weeks.  I always keep a bowl of fruit handy and it’s easy to slip a few in the bag on the way out the door.  I try to stay away from high sugar snacks as they spike my blood sugar and I can get into a cycle of up and down blood sugar which adds to emotional stress.

14.  I’m a freak about my pillow.  I’ve had neck issues in the past and my pillow is a must.  I always travel with my pillow when ever I know I’ll be staying over night.  I put it in a flowered pillow case that won’t get mistaken for one from the hospital.  It doesn’t fit in the back pack, but I grab it on my way out.

Hospitals are very stressful for care givers.  Having things in one spot or at least a list of things to take is very helpful. It’s easy to be stressed and feel overwhelmed.  When this happens our brains struggle to juggle everything.  That increases the stress.

When my father had a stroke, I was so stressed out I didn’t feel like I should be behind the wheel of a car.  Thankfully, I had my husband to take me.  If you are with your loved one when an emergency arises if you can’t hitch a ride with the ambulance, and there isn’t anyone to drive you, call a cab!  It’s cheaper to take a cab then having an auto accident.

There isn’t any way to completely alleviate the stress of being with your loved one in the hospital.  We’re concerned for them.  Obviously, they are quite ill for them to be there.  Hospitals can be a life or death situation.  It’s natural to feel stressed out when they are there.  Being prepared ahead of time won’t cure the stress, but it won’t add more to it.  It might even give a feeling of having something in control in an out of our control situation.

Do you having any more tips on what to have in our readiness pack?  Please feel free to leave a comment for all of us to learn from.

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5 Responses to “14 Stress Relieving Tips for a Care Giver to Survive an Elder Loved One’s Hospital Stay”

  1. Thanks for making and sharing the list. You really have minimized the bother of many people. Family caregivers do rush to hospitals when caring for their loved one and forget tons of important things to take with them. Hospitals can become distressing for caregivers staying for a night or two. This list points out the most essential items necessary for family caregivers.

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