“I suffer as you suffer. Let’s face it together and fight it out.”
About this time last year, DooDaddy had his most serious neurological event to date. Stroke, seizure, spinal infection – it amazes me that even with MRIs, EKGs, EEGs, CTs and other acronyms, diagnoses are still sometimes indeterminate. All I know is that my beloved father was delirious for days, reduced to a state of helplessness that was utterly heartbreaking. Snow fell outside the hospital window, as I kept a bedside vigil.
This was not my first rodeo with the middle-of-the-night phone call and the mad dash to the ER. Sadly, I’m becoming an old hand at it. And I have my Hospital Survival Kit at the ready. If you have elderly parents and you don’t have this stuff at your fingertips, all I can say is chop chop!
Hospital Survival Kit
1. Legal Paperwork – This will vary based on your circumstances, but you definitely need your geezer’s Living Will and/or Advanced Health Care Directive (ACHD). I know, more acronyms, but basically these documents address end-of-life medical-care issues that have to be decided.
DooDaddy was in no condition to speak for himself. The stroke/seizure left him babbling incoherently. But I knew he did not wish to be resuscitated if he were to die and that he did not want to be kept alive on feeding tubes.
It sounds morbid, but please discuss these things ahead of time. You will be in a state of high freak out at the hospital. Family members don’t always see eye to eye in a crisis. Dial down the drama by having these documents executed in advance according to your geezer’s wishes.
2. List of Medications/Allergies/Medical History – Maybe you know your geezer takes pills for high blood pressure and cholesterol, but do you know the dosage? Generic or name brand? What about vitamins and supplements? This stuff matters.
Gmamma is deathly allergic to penicillin and shellfish. She cannot be easily intubated due to scar tissue in her throat from a childhood bout of Rheumatic Fever, whatever the hell that is.
You need to know where every scrap of metal is in your geezer’s body. Gmamma has had both knees replaced. DooDaddy has a titanium rod in his right thigh and metal mesh in his tummy from an Abdominal Aortic Aneurism (AAA) repair. Neither of my geezers has removable dental work, but the hospital staff will need to know if yours does.
There’s no such thing as TMI in the hospital. Have the most current information handy, preferably in hard copy, because they like to scan things at admissions.
3. Phone Charger and Contact List – With the advent of the “Internet of Things” it seems silly to talk about contacts, because you have them all stored in your smart device, right? Well, don’t forget your charger. It’s a good idea to have a back-up paper list, because sometimes you’re supposed to turn off your devices, as they interfere with the equipment. And do you really have Cousin Liz and DooDaddy’s half-sister Mary Nell, in your phone?
Remember, connectivity is sketchy in hospitals, especially in the ER. Texting can be particularly troublesome.
Be sure to get your geezer’s flip phone out of the hospital bag of personal belongings, also his glasses, wallet and ChapStick. He’ll want that stuff later.
4. Geezer Toiletries and Yours Too – Speaking of ChapStick, don’t forget your geezer’s must-have personal hygiene items. And yours too, because you may not be leaving the hospital for days. Do you need your contacts? What about dental floss? And Halls mentho-lyptus throat lozenges to soothe your geezer’s sore throat after intubation during surgery and from snoring with his mouth open. Just be careful he doesn’t aspirate.
Hospitals have a little welcome kit with fuzzy socks and a disposable toothbrush, but you may need some heavy-duty hand lotion to rub on your geezer’s parchment-like skin. Plan ahead.
Bring a hand-held mirror and dry shampoo, so you can brush Gmamma’s hair while she is propped up in bed. And an “emory board” to give her a manicure. Any self-respecting old lady is gonna want her lipstick. And her big clunky purse. You can’t picture Queen Elizabeth without hers, can you?
5. Blankets and Sweaters and Such – Hospital rooms are either freezing or burning up. Dress in layers. Waiting rooms are usually cold. I’ll never forget the blanket envy I suffered during DooDaddy’s AAA surgery, as I eyed the better-prepared families bundled up with pillows from home and lap blankets. I would have killed for a cashmere poncho and my Namaste beanie.
6. Snacks and Cash – Yes, there’s a dining room in the bowels of the hospital, but you don’t want to miss the neurologist when he makes his erratic rounds. So be sure you’ve got real money for the vending machine. Better yet, bring snacks and water bottles from home for yourself and for your geezer. DooDaddy is partial to Nabs.
More later on hospital protocol and relationship building. You have to be your geezer’s advocate, but for now, think about prepping your Hospital Survival Kit.