An opinion piece by Melanie Dimmitt
Hospitals are not a place you expect – or hope – to spend much time after birthing your child, but for many of us who are raising kids with complex medical needs, the local paeds ward becomes something of a second home. Having clocked more hospital stays with my five-year-old son, Arlo, than we can collectively count on our fingers and toes, we’ve found a number of small things make for a much better time on the ward. Here are 10:
1. Be prepared
Granted, hospital stays are sometimes prepared for in an urgent, ambulance-is-on-its-way where-the-flip-is-my-phone-charger fashion. But there are things you can have sorted, ready to grab for when you’re going in. We have an always-packed hospital bag with a change of clothes, nappies and bibs for Arlo. Better parents than I have printed business cards with their kid’s MRN number and medications, including doses. Those parents are my heroes.
2. Call for backup
No matter how good you are at tip one, you’re going to forget stuff. You’re also going to run out of clean undies, clothes, nappies and nibbles if you’re in for a longer stay. Line up a loved one or, better still, your kid’s disability support worker to bring in a daily bag of fresh loot and depart with any dirty laundry. Arlo’s Hireup support worker, Maddy, accompanies her supply drops with a non-hospital coffee for me. Priceless.
3. Get comfy
Say it with me now: BED SOCKS. These babies are a must-have for wearing around the ward (and around the clock) during hospital stays. Parents of older children who’ve graduated to the adult ward tell me that you’re best to BYO bedding – and perhaps even bed. One mother who’d found herself sleeping on a towel on the floor purchased a trifold high density mattress to bring in.
4. Rug up
Let’s say it again, shall we? BED SOCKS. Hospitals have an entirely different climate to the outside world and at night, the temperature can drop to bone-chilling, teeth-chattering freezing. Make sure you have jumpers, warm PJs and thick socks packed for your stay, and ask the nurses for an extra blanket (or four) for your bed.
5. Stock up on the tea, coffee and snacks
Once we’re on the ward, I’m always quick to clock the location of the ‘parent kitchen’ and help myself to refreshments. Even in the emergency department, there’s always a tea and coffee station with a fridge that, 42% of the time, contains an in-date cheese-and-ham sanga. One savvy parent I know packs a thermos. That’s 12 hours of warm and soothing, right there.
6. Befriend the nurses
Of all the tips you need for a hospital stay, this is by far the most important. Be nice to the nurses. These overworked professionals are among the kindest, cleverest and most intuitive humans on Earth. Good ones will be your greatest allies, and will advocate for you and your kid when the doc does their rounds. Exceptional ones will remember exactly how you like your tea.
7. Stream freely
Hospitals have wifi and if you don’t already have streaming apps on your phone, lots of them offer free trials. Now is the time to Binge (or Netflix, Stan or Prime) guilt-free – and the same goes for your kid. For bonus points, invest in some extra-long power cords for all streaming devices. Vacant powerpoints can be as rare as hen’s teeth in a hospital room.
8. Bring in your kid’s support worker
Okay, so the NDIS says we can’t technically book our kid’s support worker to hang out with them in hospital. But they can provide a much-needed break by way of virtual entertainment. During a recent hospital stint we Zoomed in our support worker, Maddy, and she and Arlo read books, sang songs and enjoyed Maddy’s self-devised, puppet show rendition of The Gruffalo.
9. Ask your nurse to put the vital monitor machine on the ‘private’ setting
One small switch of a button, one giant leap for your chances of some shut-eye. For so long – and so, so, many nights in hospital – I didn’t realise that the vitals monitor could be silenced with the ‘private’ setting. Once on, the nurses can track your kid’s vitals from their station while you’re spared from the incessant beeps and dings that come out of these things.
10. Remove external pressures
As someone who has attended many a meeting from the discomfort of a hospital fold-out bed, this is one I personally need to work on. Send a copy-and-paste message to your office, colleagues and clients to let them know you are in hospital with your kid and completely off limits. I always end with – ‘I’ll be in touch once we emerge’.
Hospital stays are hard, sleep-deprived and stressful – especially when they’re unplanned – but they can also be a circuit-breaker. A chance to halt the grind, block out the world and spend a whole lot of snuggly, one-on-one time with your kid. Once that little person is on the mend, with the right supplies and support, hospital ain’t half bad.
If you’d like help in securing NDIS funds for support workers, you can schedule a free, no-strings-attached meet and greet with a Hireup Support Partner. Ready to find, hire and manage top-notch support workers for your child? Head to hireup.com.au.