By: Alyssa Zeldenrust

Hospitals are terrible places for healing, but I’ve picked up a few tips for making the best of a certainly bad situation. After many years I’ve become more of an expert than I’d like through a lot of trial and error. Here are a few ideas to improve hospital stays:

1. Decorations

Brightening up the atmosphere can be cheap, hilarious, and bring unexpected moments of laughter during frustrating days. Decorations can turn the ugly gray and beige walls colorful and remind you of the humor and beauty out there. I post them on the wall I face if I’m sitting or laying in bed. It’s fantastic because I usually don’t have any ledge spaces in my rooms. Sometimes the choices are sweet and innocent, and some have innuendo or some crude humor.

2. The Notebook with Everything

I keep a notebook with me that I use to jot notes on my diagnoses, medication orders, and questions. It also has a few things clipped in the back: important phone numbers, scratch paper, and gift certificates in case I’m in the mood for some online shopping. A small binder clip or large paper clip works well for this. This is the most important tip for improving hospital stays. It has caught nurses bringing in the wrong medication or reading the wrong chart on more than one occasion. And when doctors visit, I’m better able to focus and articulate my needs even if I’m flustered, in pain, or theres a confusion with treatment. It can also be handy to keep track of timing for medications.

3. The Comforts of Home

Bringing comforts of home like some fluffy blankets or a pillow can help an out of control environment feel more homey. I get very itchy every hospital stay because of hospital related PTSD, so bringing soft button down pajamas with pockets is awesome every time because I get to ditch the sandpapery gowns. I have a soft blanket that wraps around me and zips around my shoulders and another one that goes across my lap. I also bring my own socks made of pure fuzz and cuteness but equipped with treads to prevent slipping. I also bring packs of Kleenex that are available with loops of ribbon and snaps as well as nice toilet paper, so I don’t have to endure the nightmare of one ply toilet paper.

4. Go Bag

Assemble a pre-packed bag you can just ask someone to grab for you if necessary. Mine is currently very overpacked and disorganized but so extremely useful. It’s full of toiletries, art supplies, aromatherapy supplies, and soft stuff. Being ready with important papers, stress relieving activities, and things to keep me as comfortable as possible are privileges I appreciate a great deal during every stay. I also set up a shopping bag that is attached to my bed rail with an S-hook and rubber band so I have somewhere for my trash that won’t just build up on my tray table. It’s great if you have mobility issues and can’t get to the trash can!

5. Advocate for yourself while understanding it’s okay to ask for help.

Some of the top advice medical professionals and well meaning advocates use is “advocate for yourself.” That’s all well and good, but it can place the burden of care on each patient and this can be extra hard. It’s okay to ask for help when you need it, it’s okay to have a care partner, and it is okay to speak up for yourself when things are going wrong.

The most important thing is taking care of your mental health so your body can heal, so in addition to my five big tips, I encourage you to reach out to ostomy friends or try to connect with loved ones electronically. What do you do to make hospital stays better?