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10 Things to Pack For Your Child’s Hospital Stay

10 Things to Pack For Your Child’s Hospital Stay

I’m one of those loyal customers, the kind who likes to stay at the same place over and over again. The rewards program is pretty good – I get a few benefits. Perks include upgraded rooms, no waiting in lines and special treatment, like extra linens, free coffee and being allowed to stay in the room during change-of-shift. Wait, what?

You guessed it. We get points with every hospital stay. Both our children are diagnosed with congenital heart defects #CHD (among other diagnoses). We’ve had more open-heart surgeries and heart procedures than we can count. Our baby girl stayed in the NICU for several months after her birth; she stayed three months after just one of her surgeries. Once, she stayed so long, I had to call AAA to get my car battery jumped when she was discharged. I’m not going to lie: it sucks having a child in the hospital (no matter how minor or serious the diagnosis.) It doesn’t matter the age, most children loathe the hospital. Being a frequent flier, we’ve learned a few things along the way. There may not be a pool or spa, but there is room service and turn-down service at the push of a button. Here’s what to bring to  make the most of your child’s hospital stay:

1. Personal electronics (cell phone, tablet, laptop, e-reader)

Anything and everything that allows you to communicate with the outside world. Most hospitals have free WiFi so be sure to utilize it rather than using your own data. It’s a good idea to have a good virus protection software as well because the WiFi is public (i.e.: probably not the best time to do your online banking). You also need these devices to keep your child busy, entertained and/or relaxed as the hours tick.

2. An extension cord

For real. There’s nothing more aggravating than having to stop in the middle of a movie to plug in your laptop wayyyyyy over there, by the window in the corner of the room, when your child is stuck in bed wayyyyy over here. Be sure to plug electronics into the right outlet. Don’t plug things into red outlets. Save those for hospital stuff. Also, be sure to bring a household cord and not one of those humongous orange commercial ones. It’s a good idea to pick one with a couple of outlets, because – ya know – you need to check Facebook on your phone when your child is watching Frozen for the 347th time.

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3. The right apps (already downloaded)

WHITE NOISE! Find a good white noise app and load it to everything (darn batteries). Hospitals are NOT quiet at night. Whether it’s the staff talking (and laughing and calling out to each other) or it’s the machines beeping in your room or the rooms next door, white noise cranked up will help drown out unwanted sounds. Rain, fan, vacuum… anything plain works awesome. Other apps include voice command (like when you need information fast because you’re snooping and listening to the doctors as they round near the door), games for your child that don’t take too much space, a medical dictionary, a voice recorder in case you need to take notes on something, a flashlight, and your e-mail app.

4. THE list

The list of medications, if any, your child is currently taking. Not only the names, but the doses and concentrations. We have a sheet of paper that has our daughter’s diagnoses (simplified), some of her main surgeries, the names and phone numbers of her main physicians, my husband and my name and phone number, and our medical insurance information. Below this is her schedule of medications so the nurses/physicians know EXACTLY what and when she takes every day. And do everyone a favor – when you list a medication, give the trade name and generic name, the dosage units (which is usually the number after the name and in milligrams or grams or some measure), the administration units (how much your child is supposed to take – like 1 tablet), and any concentration/dosage strength. This is really important.

For example: Furosemide – Lasix, 20mg Tablet, Give 1/2 tablet by mouth 3 times a day. 7am, 1pm, 7pm  (Doctors will want to know this child takes 20 mg Lasix three times a day, whereas you probably say your child takes Lasix three times a day) See the difference?

Seriously. This is SUPER HELPFUL. Make copies and keep it updated with every change.

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5. Second favorite toy/blanket/lovie

I say second because… things get lost. You switch rooms. Bed linens get changed regularly. Emergencies happen. It would be a tragedy if the FAVE lovie went into the trash outside the hospital or into the big washers on the bottom floor (and then in the trash.) If you absolutely have to, then go ahead and bring the numero uno. Just put a piece of tape on it with child’s name. If your child is younger, use a Band Aid and a sharpie and pretend the toy has an owie, too.

6. Personal toiletries

For you and your child. Whatever you both use on your face, your teeth, your hair and your hands, bring it. Baby wipes/face wipes are amazing. Zip Lock those bad boys and label the bag with your child’s name. If you are going to have a long stay and showers are involved, bring a set of cheap flip-flops for the shower. I’m not kidding.

Tip: Ask for a BIG stack of wash cloths and a few extra towels the minute you get settled in the room. You’ll use wash cloths for everything. If the nurse won’t bring them, ask the support staff. We always make friends with the people who clean the room and thank them when they provide us with linens every day without even asking.

7. Books, movies, head phones/ear buds (2 sets) and activities to do in bed

Books are great, but you will probably be reading more than your child. Hospital kids don’t feel well and it takes brain power to read. Most of the time, movies are entertaining and don’t require energy. Even my read-a-holic son prefers movies in the hospital. The hospital has a great collection of DVDs (ask the Child Life Services dept where to find them), but if your child has a favorite (Jurassic World!!!), be sure to bring it along. Headphones are great. Ear buds work as well, but they always break for us and then we’re stuck without them so I always bring a few sets. Note: Hospitals have DVD players, sometimes in the rooms, but in our experience, they’re broken more often than not so we bring a laptop.

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Things like clay kits, old-school card/domino houses, nail design, bracelet-making kits, etc. work well. Anything that can be done on a tray table while sitting in bed. Warning: be careful with projects that contain tiny items like beads because IV and monitor wires/leads will knock things over. 10 million plastic beads in your child’s bed is no fun!

8. Treats/Thank You’s for the staff

A little goes a long way. We bring thank you cards and fancy pens and write notes when someone does something super helpful or goes out of her way. We give them when we’re being discharged. We have “hospital friends” who bring bags of candy to offer the nurses. Hey, if you’re going to Starbucks, ask your nurse if he/she wants something. You’ll get special treatment for life!! It’s your choice, but even a nice note or picture from your child is nice.

9. Pictures (printed)

It’s important your child feel like he or she is still part of the real world. Pictures of family, friends and pets are important. Use a scrapbook, tape them to the side of the bed (if allowed) or the walls or just go through the loose photos. Share stories. Some kids feel sad and homesick, as if the world is going on without them. Pictures help keep them grounded in their worlds.

10. Anything that provides comfort

This applies to you and your child. Loose, comfortable clothing because you’ll be sitting around, kicking up your feet and getting into strange positions on those awful hospital chairs. Sweaters or cozy sweatshirts because hospitals are cold! If your child is allowed to wear regular clothes instead of a hospital gown, make sure the clothes are loose enough for all the stickers, leads, monitor wires and IV lines have room to move. Slippers are great for short walks, trips to the bathroom or lazy walks to the cafeteria when it’s been so many days you don’t care what people think anymore.

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For nighttime, many parents like to bring a cot mat or piece of foam to lie on when sleeping on the chair-fold-into-bed thing. Some people bring their own pillows.

Snacks or homemade food, but ONLY if it’s approved by your child’s doctor. It’s very helpful, though, to have snacks or food on hand for you. You’ll save money, it’s healthier (you don’t keep running to the vending machine) and you don’t have to leave the room to go somewhere (because some days are worse than others and you can’t leave.)

Bonus: Bring your sense of humor. You will need to laugh when things get rough. Bring your strength. You’ll need it and so will your child. Bring your courage. Sometimes you need to be an advocate. Sometimes YOU know better and you’ll need to speak up. Bring your patience. Hospitals are busy. Nurses are human. Most of all, bring all your love and attention. Your child is scared, even if he/she doesn’t show it.

Featured photo credit: Tiberiu Ana via flickr.com

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Missy Mitchell

Author, Artist, Advocate

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Published on April 3, 2020

How to Strengthen Family Bonds When You’re Staying at Home

How to Strengthen Family Bonds When You’re Staying at Home

Now is a perfect time to work on making some memories with your closest family members. When situations call for social distancing outside of our home, we need to do the opposite within home.

Now, more than ever, we need to engage with those living in our home. We may be together for a while, but look at it is way, it is a wonderful opportunity to create some good family memories and positive interactions together.

Staying home can be isolating, especially when we hole ourselves up in different rooms than our other family members. Make an effort to spend quality time together. Sitting in the same room on different electronic devices is not quality family time. Put down the elections, join together in one room, and do activities together.

Your family bonding becomes stronger when you spend time doing activities together. Below are 10 ideas you can do with your family and loved ones.

1. Create Photo Albums

If you are like most of the population, you probably have lots of photos and very few physical albums. My parents generation always had photo albums. I can go to my parents’ home in Florida and find at least 20 albums from the lives of my parents and my childhood that I can flip through and reminisce. Physical, tangible photo albums are always cherished.

Look back at the past five years of your life. Were there meaningful trips that you took as a family or major life events such as a Baptism, marriage, or birth of a child that happened in the past few years? Do you have photos of the event stored somewhere digitally such as social media, on your phone, or on a computer? If you do and you want to savor those memories for years to come, then you may want to think about creating some photo albums.

This is a great activity for family of all ages. You can approach the project in one of several ways. You can print the photos and put them in your own physical photo album (the kind our parents used and you can still buy), you can scrapbook, or you can create an online photo album.

Whichever choice you make, the family can be involved in the process. I like the tangible photos and traditional albums or basic (no frills) scrap-booking, as do my kids. We have albums in all three formats. Whichever method you decide to do you can involve the whole family in the creation process.

Scrap booking as a family can be fun too. It does not have to be over the top either. We do it with scrap booking paper (12 by 12 inches), photos, and bits of paper to write captions for the photos. The family uses photo safe glue to secure the photos to paper that each person selected and then we slide the pages into the clear page holders of the album. Albums are easy to create using this method and this method still allows for personalization of each page.

    To do a photo album project, I simply print out the photos that I want to use for the album. Many albums will ship printed photos directly to your home. For example, we did a National Park trip this past summer and visited seven of them in the United States over a three-week span.

    I printed all of the photos from the trip that I thought we could use for the album. Then I cut strips of colored paper. I use these strips to write a sentence of two. I usually put a strip with details on each page, but not every photo because that becomes more tedious.

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    Having everyone select and do a page or two and write the details about what the photos they selected makes it even more meaningful. For example, my son Charlie writing “This is Glacier National Park where we camped and Max got bit by gobs of ants at the dog run and we had to find a vet to help him” makes it memorable. His handwriting and the thing that captured his memory about that particular day are special. It adds his touch to the memories from the trip. Having every family member participate in putting the photos into the book and writing a few sentences for the photos that they are putting into the book helps to make it a shared family experience.

    It is also a wonderful time for revisiting the occasion that you are creating the album about. For example, doing an album as a family for a trip you all took together provides us with plenty to talk about as we go through the photos. My kids always get excited and say “look mom, remember when….” about a hundred times anytime we do an album together. The photo album activity is a bonding activity, as is the reminiscing over special time you spent together in the past.

    2. Indoor Camping with Sheet Forts

    What kid doesn’t love a good sheet fort? Sheet forts are the kind of memories that make a childhood great. If your kids don’t have any sheet fort memories, then now is the time to start making them!

    All you need are some sheets. The bigger, the better. Flat and fitted work just fine. Fitted sheets can be helpful to secure under legs of tables since they have elastic corners and are gathered. We like to use tables, chairs, and sometimes couch cushions too. You create a space using the furniture and then cover the furniture with sheets. You are essentially making indoor tents.

    My kids like to play inside their forts for hours once they are created. I help with the creation, to ensure that things don’t fall over and hurt anyone, but once that is done, I let them play. They will take books, little action figures, and their stuffed animals into their fort to play. Feel free to climb into their fort with them too! They will think you are the best parent ever!

      3. Bake or Cook Together

      Staying at home is a great opportunity to cook or bake together as a family. If you have special recipes that you would like to teach your children, now is a great time to do that.

      If you have grandma’s apple pie recipe that has been passed down for generations, it would be a nice time to make it with your children. You can use the time to talk about your grandparents, the heritage of your family, and perhaps the meaning of the recipe to you.

      After you make the special dessert or dish with your children, it will then have special meaning to them too. They will be able to recall the time that they made that special concoction with you and the memories you made from that day.

      Here’re also some ideas for you: 15 Easy Recipes for Kids That Don’t Require an Oven

      4. Play Board Games Together

      I come from a family that plays games together. Even as adults, we love to play Boggle, Scrabble, Rummikub, and a variety of card games.

      My kids have caught the game bug too. When we go camping or are home over the weekend, we will play Uno, Connect Four, Dominoes, and Memory. These board and card games are inexpensive and provide hours of entertainment. It is also a great way to bond as a family and create memories.

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      Some of my favorite memories from childhood are sitting at the kitchen table playing games with my siblings and parents.

      For very young children, you can start with games like Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders. From there, you can move onto slightly more challenging games for their minds such as Uno, Monopoly Junior, Memory, War (basic card game), and Connect Four.

      My kids started playing Candy Land at the ages of three and four. From there, they have been hooked on family game time ever since. They ask often to play together and now is a great time to teach them to play even more games. The entertainment, laughs, and memories are priceless!

      5. Put on a Show or Play

      Family talent shows, putting on a play, and putting on a musical show do not require an audience. Your family can do the show and record on your phone or other electronic device. It doesn’t need an audience other than you all to make it memorable. It is the experience of collaborating, planning, and executing the show together that make it special.

      My kids began making their own hat creations out of our various art supplies. I have been helping them in the process. We have art class daily as part of our new home school curriculum (I am one of those moms who never wanted to home school, yet I am doing it because our schools are closed indefinitely).

      Art class daily has become hat making time. Once they have made enough hats for a fashion show, I said we would put on a show and record it. It has spurred on their motivation to create elaborate works of art. They are excited about each hat and the show that is to come to fruition.

      You can find free plays and scripts on Free Drama. You can act them out as a family and record just for fun. You can also use a script from the website to create a puppet show. Each family member can then play multiple roles and it opens the door to more characters.

      If you don’t have puppets, then make some! You probably have a basket of mismatched socks like we do. It is a great way to use them at this point. Go to Pinterest for ideas on how to make sock puppets. Creating the puppets together is also a great bonding activity. Once you have your characters made, then you can act it out.

      Don’t forget to video it, because I can guarantee that your kids are going to be interested in seeing their own performance. Such a great way to make family memories and it doesn’t cost much, if anything at all!

      6. Reading Aloud

      Reading a book aloud is a great way to create some bonding time and memories. It is a much better alternative than everyone isolating themselves doing their own activities. Being pulled into the same imaginative world through a book creates a shared experiences.

      I remember reading The Old Man and the Sea to my mom when we were on a car trip when I was a kid. I recall talking about the premise of the book and our opinions about it. It obviously left an impression on me, as I remember this over 25 years later.

      I have read aloud books to my kids too. The first chapter book we read aloud together was Charlotte’s Web. After we read the book together, we then watched the movie. It is sweet how my kids will still point on the book or movie if we see it somewhere in public. They will say “remember when we read the book together and watched the movie?” They say it with such sweetness and innocent pleasure, it is a good reminder that the simple things in life are sometimes the best.

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      Some other good books that we have read aloud together that my kids personally enjoyed were The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Secret Garden, and Little Women. I know several friends that have read the Harry Potter series with their children who are slightly older than my six and eight year old children.

      Medium shares a list of 20 great books to read aloud with your kids. Their list is helpful because it has descriptions along with recommended ages for each book.

      If you can’t get out of the house to go to the library, you should look into the digital software that your library utilizes. Visit your local library’s website to find out what apps you will need for you to borrow from their digital library.

      Our library offers a multitude of free e-book downloads. You borrow the materials much like you would a physical book. Usually, the downloads can be kept for 2-3 weeks at a time, depending on your library rules. They also have audible books available for download from many libraries as well. For example, our local library subscribes to Cloud Library. To use it, I simply downloaded the app and entered my library card information requested from the app. I was instantly given access to thousands of audible books free!

      7. Plant a Garden

      This tip only applies if you have a yard, however there are options for creating patio gardens and indoor gardens too. Planting a garden and teaching your child how to tend to vegetables is a wonderful bonding opportunity. You are teaching them real life skills, you will have real food to eat from your own garden, and you are creating memories that will last a lifetime.

      If you ask a person if they had a garden when they were a kid, everyone knows the answer. It is not something you have to think to hard about. Why? Because gardening is an experience. Why not experience it with your family too?

      If you don’t know much about gardening, then you can learn with your child as you go through the process. Here is an article from Bonnie Plants on how to plant a garden.

      If you don’t want to leave your home, then you can order gardening supplies online like I did. Lowe’s dropped off our raised garden bed kit on my doorstep and I ordered a variety of seeds from Amazon. Just look online at the garden stores that are closest to you and see what they ship to doorstep if you don’t want to leave the house.

      8. Host Your Own Family Party

      Just because you are home and can’t have a big party with lots of friends doesn’t mean you can’t still have a party. A party with your family is fun if you decide to make it fun.

      Pick a theme to really make it an event. An 80’s themed dance party is sure to get the whole family laughing and smiling. Pull out your best 80’s looking clothing, rat your hair to get that special 80’s look, put on some 1980’s tunes, and teach your kids some dance moves from the 80’s.

      Having a dance party doesn’t require many people. A party of two is still a party! Make some memories and perhaps show your kids what things were like when you were a kid. They will certainly remember an 80’s themed dance party for many years to come.

      Weekends spent at home don’t mean that they can’t be fun. Make the weekend special even if you have to be home. For example, Friday can be family movie night or family game night. Then Saturday night can be your 80’s dance party. Let your creativity go to work and if you need a few ideas check out this blog article that has 32 Party Theme Ideas .

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      9. Learn an Instrument Together

      No time better than the present to start learning to play that instrument you have always wanted to play.

      Have you always wanted to play the guitar? Then, look online for a basic learning guitar that isn’t expensive, yet has good reviews. We did that for my daughter and purchased a decent quality ukulele from Amazon that was intended for beginners while still having a quality sound (it wasn’t some trinket from a tourist destination that wouldn’t hold a tune.)

      We found lessons online from an instructor who would conduct lessons one on one using Skype. Many instructors use this technology or other free software that allows quality video communications from their home to yours.

      The website we happened to use to find an instructor was TakeLessons.com. You can find instructors that will teach anything from drums to cello to saxophone. Prices vary too. You pick your instructor from their pool of instructors available. This website is basically a service that connects people with talent (some with really good music education too) who can teach to students who are looking to learn.

      Learning to play an instrument together and you are creating memories together! You are also learning a new skill that you can enjoy for years to come. Playing music together is good for the mind and soul!

      The TakeLessons.com website also has language lessons. You can learn a new language as a family. All from the comfort of your own home. I am sure there are many different website that offer lessons on learning another language. Do your research and compare prices before committing to anything.

      10. Plan Future Travels

      While you are learning a new language you can begin planning future vacations. You can do a family meeting and discuss where you would like to go and why.

      It would be even better to have each child research where they would like to take a trip. Each child and/or family member can present a pitch on why your family should travel to that location in the future. They can use their research to tell about the area such as its historical value, recreational features, and the learning experiences that can be had from such travels.

      This doesn’t mean you need to book any travels. It more about learning and finding hope in the future. If we can’t plan for the future, then there is no hope. Make mental plans now, as a family, for what you want to do and where you want to travel someday.

      Make Memories Today!

      There is no time better than the present to start making memories together and bonding as a family. In these times when many people are having to stay home for extended periods of time, it is a great opportunity to bond and connect as a family.

      You have a captive audience with your children at home. Don’t miss out on this time by holing up in separate rooms doing your own activities. Make it a point to chose group activities and engage your family during this time at home.

      Every day alive is a blessing. Every day having your family is blessing. Don’t take your blessings for granted. Love on them and create great memories in spite of the circumstances.

      Featured photo credit: Marisa Howenstine via unsplash.com

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