Few events in life are as stressful as having a child in the hospital, especially if the stay comes at the end of a trip to the emergency room. You may not really understand what is wrong or even whether it can be fixed. You rarely know how long your child will be there. There can be organizational challenges associated with the stay, including how to find a sitter for the kids still at home, how to get someone to cover your shift at work or how to get the supplies you need to stay by your child’s bedside. In the midst of all this stress, you have a child who doesn’t feel well and needs parents who make him or her feel safe.
In order to cope with all of these challenges, one of your most important resources can be a simple notebook.
First, make a list of all of the questions you have about your child’s condition. Remember to write down your child’s questions as well. Then, start asking questions of your child’s healthcare providers. Write down all the answers. You’ll start to think up more questions, (probably as soon as the doctor walks out of the room). Write these questions down as well. Keep asking and keep learning, writing down the answers as you go. Answer your child’s questions as well as you can. Use your notes to answer questions from friends and family members. Use them to empower you if you have issues with your child’s care.
Secondly, write down everything you can think of that you need: a suitcase of clothes, a charging cord for your phone, dinner for the kids at home, someone to take care of the dog while you’re gone, etc. After the list is done, beside each of the items, write down someone who might be able to help. Then contact them and ask for the help that you need. Everyone realizes that having a child in the hospital is an emergency. You’ll probably be surprised by how much people will offer to do for you and your family. Let them help. Someday you’ll either pay them back for it, or you’ll pay it forward to someone else.
Lastly, start writing down everything you are told about how to care for your child, particularly after you get back home. When you do get home, even after swearing that you couldn’t stay a single minute more, you’ll be as nervous as you are relieved. Up until that moment, your child’s health wasn’t really in your hands. It was in the hands of the doctors, nurses and therapists at the hospital. Once your child is discharged, however, the parents must truly take over.
When your child is finally discharged, the hospital will give you paperwork to take home. Keep this paperwork together in a convenient location. You will have:
- Medication information, including what new medications your child should take, what medications your child should discontinue and what dosages your child should take. There will be an explanation of what each medication is for.
- What warning signs to watch out for after your child gets home.
- What activities you child can do when released and what activities your child should not do until cleared by the doctor
- The date and time of your child’s follow up appointment.
- What number to call if problems arise after discharge.
Having a child in the hospital is difficult and stressful. By writing things down, asking questions and asking for help, you can minimize confusion and forgetfulness. You can keep track of the most important aspects of caring for your child and understanding his or her illness. When you feel more in control and less overwhelmed, helping your child feel safe and calm will be easier to manage.