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Years ago when we were building our family, each time I was pregnant, I always packed a bag a few weeks before my due date. In it were all the essentials I might need at the hospital when I delivered.
My caregiving roles have changed as I’ve gotten older but some things haven’t. I still have to be prepared for a quick trip to the hospital only now it could be for an elderly parent or a grandkid. I have several special people in my “circle of caregiving.”
Last year I spent two full days in the hospital with a beloved. I knew it could be coming so I found that I once again had to have a “hospital bag” packed and ready to go. In it were some important items I might need when the time arose.
Eventually, after weeks of false alarms and a myriad of tests, the symptoms reared their ugly heads and off we went. It was time to “test-drive” the bag. I discovered I had brought some things I never used, and needed some things I hadn’t thought to pack. We wound up staying in the emergency room all night, from 7 p.m. until after 10 a.m., before a room was finally cleared for us. The emergency room only had a chair for me to sit in. That, combined with the doctors and nurses coming in every few minutes, meant that I didn’t sleep more than about an hour that night. My aging relative was able to doze in her bed which was great. I played solitaire on my PDA until the battery died, and tried to read one of the books I brought. Because of my concern for my charge and lack of sleep, I just couldn’t focus on the non-fiction books I had. The crossword puzzle book I found in the gift shop enabled me to have something to do, without requiring any long term concentration.
The next day I was able to make a quick trip home to check the mail, pick up some items for both of us, and grab my laptop, along with chargers for it and my cell phone. The hospital was wonderful! They allowed cell phone use everywhere we went. Not all hospitals do. You have to ask at each one. They also provided free wireless service for my laptop. I was able to get some work done in the morning and still be available to help her and talk to the doctors. I also used my laptop to access the internet which enabled me to research the various tests she was given and look up all the unfamiliar words we were learning.
The hospital staff members were terrific, but they were also very busy. Because I was there all the time, except for short breaks to eat in the cafeteria and when I ran home, I was able to help a lot and make her much more comfortable. That meant less time sitting in discomfort, a sip of water sooner, help finding items dropped, etc. It also meant I was there for all but one doctor visit so I knew everything that was going on.
The bag I used for that trip was a large briefcase-style purse. It looked professional and held a lot, but was somewhat awkward to carry when we had to change rooms or go for tests in a hurry. The next time I go, I will be using a backpack. Much easier to carry, more compartments for organizing, and it’s even big enough for a laptop.
It’s been a year since all that, and the bag was put away months ago. Last week a new incident happened in my circle of care and I thought I would again be heading for the hospital as a caregiver. I printed out the list of items I had saved from the last trip and had a new bag packed in minutes. Going to the hospital is never easy, whether it is to have a beautiful new baby, or when caring for an elderly parent or other special person you care about. Advance preparation definitely makes things easier for the Sandwich Generation!