Preparing for an inpatient stay for your child’s cancer treatment can be a very emotional experience.
Packing for hospital may be low on your list of concerns, but a little planning now can avoid stress later, and even have a very positive impact on your child’s wellbeing, and your own.
Be practical, but also creative. Consider the long periods of inactivity you and your child will experience, the separation from family and familiarity. Follow the tips below to pack effectively for every hospital visit, whether an outpatient clinic or a longer admission.
If your child is old enough, encourage her to pack a bag. This can satisfy her need for control, and lets her choose items that she finds comforting.
Engage siblings too, even if your child with retinoblastoma is too young to pack a bag. This can help brothers and sisters better understand what is happening, and gives them a sense of being involved and doing something useful.
Hospitals take no liability for your property. This is your responsibility. Patient rooms and bays usually have storage units but they are rarely lockable. Do not bring valuables that you cannot keep with you at all times while at the hospital.
Be Prepared to Stay
Even if your child is scheduled for an outpatient procedure, bring overnight supplies just in case she is admitted. Sometimes children have complications, or procedures get delayed. If this happens, being prepared for an overnight stay will avoid undue stress.
You will have some formalities to complete. They may not require all of the following, but having them available will avoid delays if they are needed.
Photo ID (ID card, passport etc)
Your child’s birth certificate, or a certified copy
References such as National Health, Social Security and hospital number
If you are divorced, appropriate documentation to verify legal guardianship
Insurance information and cards (bring all if you have more than one provider)
Next of Kin (for emergencies – name, address and telephone and email)
Family doctor (name, practice, address, telephone, fax and e-mail)
Your child’s doctor (name, practice, address, telephone, fax and e-mail)
Insurance case manager (name, company, address, telephone, fax and e-mail)
Clothing and Personal Care
Bring enough supplies to last at least 7 days. You can re-wash clothing and buy more toiletries locally if needed. Many hospitals have support services that donate these items to parents. Ask the nurses about this.
Think about where you are going as the weather may be different to what you are used to. If you are unsure, look up a 10 day forecast online, or call the hospital for guidance. This will help you pack appropriate clothing.
Bring sufficient supply of prescription medication for you, your child and other family members accompanying you. Pack extra supplies in case your child’s stay is longer than expected.
Comfort and Encouragement
Familiar, treasured items can be hugely beneficial when you and your child feel adrift in the medical world. Think carefully about what will be most helpful. Photos of family and friends can be very comforting, especially to young children.
Check whether the hospital has any restrictions. For example, infection control measures sometimes only allow toys that are machine washable or easily wiped clean.