Life in the Hospital Lane Pt.2

Mon Feb. 13th 2023


The Grab-Bag or Suitcase

Many times, a hospital stay will be unplanned and arrive unexpectedly. Having a plan in place with your family will alleviate some of the stress and make the situation more manageable. Talk through who will be caring for children still at home, details around school runs, meals, who will put them to bed in your absence. Explain which hospital you will most likely be at. Supportive friends and family who are ‘on call’ should there be an unplanned hospital admission could be left a list with contact info and important information they will need to ‘take over’ looking after other siblings.

When the situation arises, you may need to leave the house in a hurry, and there isn’t time to gather all the essential items you will need for a stay in hospital. When you’re thinking about what to pack, think about the sorts of things you’d pack if you were going for a sleepover. The following is a guide, and each situation will be different. If you’ve recently had a hospital admission, note down all the things you had wished you had while you were there for next time.

You want the hospital to feel like home, so pack some favourite books and toys, portable games that your child enjoys, perhaps a colouring book or activity book that your child loves

Your phone and its charger

Any medication that will be needed daily

Comfortable clothes, sleepwear

A favourite cuddly toy for your child

Your own blanket to make it feel a bit more homely


Some of your own snacks and fruit

Money to spend in the shop

Earplugs if you have trouble sleeping in different environments

Headphones if you like to listen to music or podcasts

Your own pillow to make sure you get a good night's sleep

We recently asked a Mum what they specifically take along for a lengthy hospital stay:

“So much! I have a pre-packed bag, as 99% of our admissions are unplanned. It contains the following:

Phone charger, toilet bag (toothbrush/toothpaste, hairbrush, face wash, moisturiser, sanitary pads, deodorant), make up bag (foundation, mascara, lip gloss – on a grotty exhausted day it can help to not look a hag!), PJs, small chopping board and small vege knife (much easier to be healthy and have access to cut up veges to eat with hummus etc, coffee plunger and coffee mug, 3 pairs undies & socks, 3 tshirts. Take slip on shoes /jandals – getting on and off bed is just easier. Depending on which room you are in, the temperature can vary wildly. It can be very hot if sun streaming in (wear layers, so can be ok in tshirt), or can be cold due to air con, so I take a merino wrap/jumper. I find comfy joggers are preferable to jeans.

For my child: Toilet bag with toothbrush, toothpaste, undies, socks, PJs, shorts, tshirt, bag of small cars, felt pens and a colouring book, DVD player and charger.”

During Your Stay

Most children will worry about being away from their parents or main carers. It’s advisable for one parent to stay with your child throughout their hospital stay – either at the bedside or nearby.  Reassure your child that you will be with them and that you will be sleeping in the same room as them whenever possible. Your child may seem more clingy or anxious during a hospital stay. They may need more reassurance and more cuddles than usual. Everyone deals with the stresses of illness and hospital in a different way. Your child may focus or worry about something completely different to you or may find ways to cope that are unique to them.

While it can be tempting to be less strict about what happens and when, your child will probably prefer to stick to their usual routine during a hospital stay. The familiarity of usual mealtime and bedtime routines can be a source of comfort for children when they are away from home. When and where this is able to be done, try your best, it will have both physical and emotional benefits for you and your child.

During hospital stays all parents are encouraged to take regular breaks from the ward environment. Taking a break and taking time-out for yourself can help with the stress of caring for a sick child.

Hospitals are busy places; the days are long and stretched out. We asked a parent how they give themselves a break to keep their mental and physical strength up;

“Honestly its super hard, as the care is so often not up to scratch that I fear leaving the room – this has been raised and acknowledged at the highest level as a genuine concern, so I only leave the room if the hospital granny has popped in, or a friend. I will book the play specialist if possible, or the Raukatauri music guy – so I can plan to leave the room to run around the Domain. I also have noise cancelling headphones to block out his (my son’s) tv (which he needs to pass the time, but drives me nuts!). One other thing is I don’t use the lift, but force myself to use the stairs. It is amazing how good that is for cardio/mind!”