There are many things you can do to bring light, colour and fun to your child’s inpatient stay.
Often blandly painted, with the smell of antiseptic everywhere, hospital can be a daunting, uninviting place for young children. However, with a little creativity, you can personalize your child’s environment.
Get to know the hospital and all the facilities available to you and your child. If you can, decorate your child’s space to make it feel homely. Keep a journal and a visitor’s book to record your daily experiences.
Find Your Bearings
Ask for a tour of the ward if your child’s admission did not include one. Find out what facilities are available for children and parents. Ask about bathing arrangements for parents, and where the nearest laundry is located.
Ask what facilities are available elsewhere in the hospital, for example, the chaplaincy, cafeteria and playrooms. Request a copy of the patient handbook or similar literature, if these exist. They provide helpful resources such as a hospital map and information about facilities.
Personalize Your Child’s Space
Many hospitals allow families to decorate the child’s room or bay. This can be a tremendous encouragement to both you and your child, and creates a fun activity on arrival.
To avoid disappointment, ask about rules and restrictions before making plans with your child.
Put up colourful posters or artwork prepared by siblings. Tape get well cards to the bed or storage unit, or thread them onto cotton thread and string them across the room. Add photographs of your child, family, pets and friends.
Bring your child’s favourite soft toy and bedding to brighten up the room. Deck the area with Mylar balloons or silk flowers.
Plants and cut flowers are an infection risk, and rubber balloons a choking hazard. There items are often not allowed on children’s cancer wards.
Use a plug-in diffuser or oil stone to fill the room with familiar scents from home. Let your child choose her favourite scents.
If your child is sharing a room or bay with other children, consider their needs and wishes before using scents as these may not be appreciated.
Journals and Visitors Books
Bring a guest book for visitors to sign. Ask doctors, nurses and technicians to record each procedure when it is completed at your child’s bedside. Invite cleaners and support staff to sign – they are a part of your child’s teem too!
Keep a journal by your child’s bed. Use it to write notes, record observations about your child and leave messages for other caregivers. This can help with communication if you and your partner or other relatives have only a short time to “hand over” care each day.
Each person can use the journal to bring themselves up-to-date with that has happened since their last visit.
Creating a written record of your child’s hospital experience can empower the whole family. Your young child will have a keepsake for life, and siblings back home will have a better understanding of what happens at the hospital.
This is also a great way to build relationships with the medical staff.
Encourage visitors and medical staff to leave a message in the guest book or journal. Even if your child is too young to read now, these messages will be a comfort to you.
Your child will also have a beautiful record to treasure when she grows up, and these messages will immortalize the love of so many people who accompanied you on her difficult life journey.