Senior Living Q & A: Being ready for a hospital stay

Q. I am feeling anxious because I am going into the hospital soon. The only other time I have been hospitalized was when I gave birth 60 years ago. What should I be aware of?

In general, hospitals are staffed by trained professionals who want to do what is best for you. However, as with any large organization, things sometimes fall through the cracks or get overlooked. Therefore, it is important that both you and your loved ones watch out for your interests throughout your hospital stay. After all, mistakes and accidents can happen in the hospital, just as they can anyplace else. The best way to avoid problems is to pay attention to what is going on and to ask plenty of questions.

It is also important to prepare yourself (if possible) for a trip to the hospital. Some pre-hospital planning can help.

Make a list of questions or concerns to discuss with your doctor before you go to the hospital.

Ask your doctor how you can reach him or her while you are in the hospital.

Make a list of your medical conditions, current medications, and drug or food allergies. Bring this list with you to the hospital. Also bring your insurance information and the names and phone numbers of family and friends.

Label personal items (hearing aids, dentures, eyeglasses) with your name and address.

Leave jewelry and other valuables at home.

Take a few personal belongings to the hospital, such as photographs of a loved one, to provide comfort and reassurance during your stay. Again, avoid bringing valuable or irreplaceable items that might be lost or stolen.

It is normal to have concerns about going into the hospital. After all, people in the hospital are ill and face undergoing uncomfortable medical or surgical procedures. Other things about being in the hospital can also be confusing or frustrating. Knowing about these ahead of time can help ease your mind and prevent frustration.

Things to know about being in the hospital

Hospital admission usually requires filling out a number of forms and making a number of complicated decisions.

Your daily routine will be significantly different, and you will likely be put through a number of tests in unfamiliar settings.

Your normal clothing will generally be replaced with unflattering and rather revealing hospital gowns.

The food is not always appetizing and may be served at times other than when you are used to eating.

You probably will experience some lack of privacy. Medical staff and hospital personnel will be going in and out of your room continually to ask you important and often demanding questions. They will also need to take your temperature, give you medications, change your linens, adjust your bandages and so on. Although most people will knock on your door, they tend to come in before you can respond.

You may feel intimidated or dependent when dealing with hospital staff. However, remember that your health should be your first concern.

NANCY TURNEY received a bachelor's degree in social work and a certificate in gerontology. If you have a specific question you would like answered in this column, email it to or call Turney at the Crescenta-Cañada YMCA, (818) 790-0123, ext. 225.

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