Caring for a loved one is filled with day-to-day stressors. But what about the stressors that are out of the ordinary? Any hospitalization is stressful. Preparing for the hospital to the extent possible can help alleviate some of the stress and help you to feel more in control.

Emergency Room Visit

Visits to the ER are very stressful. They are precipitated by immediate crisis and are not anticipated. Having an emergency “to-go” kit can afford a little relief from the stress of the situation. Since you may be in the emergency room for some time, there are a few items which can be valuable as you wait for information and direct care.

  1. Family visiting patientCopies of any records relating to your loved one’s care. Joining the LRG Patient Registry/GIST Prime and consistently updating medical records can assure that you have all the relevant information in one place accessible on your mobile device.
  2. Your insurance card and credit/debit card for any co-pays.
  3. Medications – both the patient’s and your own in case you are there for some time.
  4. Several bottles of water.
  5. Snacks such as protein bars, nuts, etc. Vending machines may be hard to find, and you may not want to leave the room.
  6. Change for vending machines.
  7. Magazines, a book, crossword puzzles, etc. There may be times when your loved one goes for tests and having something to occupy your mind may help alleviate worry. If you are a spiritual or religious person, this might include reading material that gives you comfort.
  8. Your mobile phone and/or other mobile device (laptop, Kindle, iPad, etc.).
  9. Phone charger. As you make phone calls to inform others, it is important to be able to keep your mobile phone charged.
  10. A sweater, wrap or light throw. ERs are notoriously cold.
  11. A notebook and pens. Writing down what the medical professionals say is helpful. In a stressful situation, you might forget what they said.
  12. Tissues and a packet of personal wipes, as well as some disinfectant wipes for surfaces with which you have direct contact.
  13. A picture that makes you smile: a photo of grandchildren, picture of a favorite place, etc.
  14. “Freshen Up Kit” – this can include a toothbrush, toothpaste, brush, deodorant, sample size toiletries and a small mirror.
  15. Essential oils. Certain essential oils when inhaled can elicit a feeling of calm. Especially effective are lavender and bergamot.
  16. A few of your favorite tea bags. Chamomile and Mint are particularly calming.
  17. For the patient: pajamas and robe in case of admittance.

This kit can also be used for a planned hospital stay.

Stress Relief Strategies for a Hospital Stay

In addition to the “to go” kit, there are also stress relief strategies you can use for both an ER and planned hospital stay.

  1. Adrenalin is released in your body when a stressful event happens. By bringing fresh oxygen into your system, you can begin to counteract this. Deep breathing helps to lower blood pressure and slow your heartbeat. This article can provide some helpful hints on stress relief:
  2. Think positively – even if you are feeling frightened, “fake it ‘til you make it.” By practicing positive self-talk, you will begin to relieve your anxiety. Positive messages might include “We can handle this,” or “One step at a time.”
  3. Get up and move regularly. Feel good chemicals in your body kick in with movement. Do a few stretches or take a walk when your loved one is going for tests or sleeping. Go outside. if possible, and get some fresh air.
  4. Ask for help. Don’t be shy about reaching out to family and friends. Allow them to provide you with a meal, drive you to the hospital, or take care of things at home for you. Ask them to come and spell you at the hospital. It will take away some of your stress and help them to feel good.
  5. If it is a planned stay, be prepared. Be sure you thoroughly understand the reason for the hospitalization, expected outcomes and risks. Make a list of questions for your doctor. Research online for further information. Reach out to The Life Raft Group for clarification. Discuss the situation with other GIST patients and caregivers on the ListServ.
  6. Do not be shy about asking questions. You are your loved one’s Patient Champion. It is perfectly acceptable and expected that you ask why interventions are happening, what medications are being given, and what outcomes and risks are anticipated.
  7. Give your loved one a “face”. Bring personal pictures with you and place in the room. Talk to the medical professionals that treat your loved one, mentioning that they are a husband, wife, grandfather, grandmother and what they are interested in. Our Executive Director, Norman Scherzer, posted a poem called “The Invitation” by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, on his wife, Anita’s hospital room door. It made medical professionals recognize that this was an individual with value, not just a medical case on their roster.
  8. Engage the nurses. They can become important advocates for your loved one. Ask them why they chose their profession. Just like it is important for them to see your loved one as a person, it is important for you to view them as valued also.
  9. If it is helpful for you, visit the hospital chapel. Ask to speak to the chaplain.
  10. Keep a journal, jotting down particulars. It may be useful for future reference.
  11. Even though it is a stressful time, try not to take everything so seriously. Remind your loved one of positive things in their life.
  12. Don’t lose hope. Hope does not require anything, other than willingness.

Remember that you are not alone. The Life Raft Group Patient Registry team is just a phone call away.

Most importantly, don’t forget to take care of yourself. No one benefits if you allow yourself to get run down, least of all your loved one. Don’t skip meals, try to eat healthy, and find a few moments of time for yourself each day.