Life Events

Life events pose a unique challenge because each is a new or infrequent occurrence for which many people have little or no prior experience.

For most people, accidents and major illness are two infrequent disrupters of our daily routines.

When an accident or major illness disrupts your life, here is some commonsense advice that can help.

/ Accident or Major Illness /

Preparing for a Planned Hospital Stay

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Having your doctor tell you that you need to be hospitalized for a medical procedure is usually not good news. Most people will be at the very least apprehensive; some will be frightened. Here are some steps you can take to help you deal with this unsettling time. Keep in mind that the better prepared you are, the more likely your outcome and recovery will be successful.

To begin with, it is important to make sure you know why you are having the medical procedure and that you agree that it is the right one for you. Not only does this ensure better quality care for yourself, but it also will raise your confidence and willingness to go through it. If the procedure is major, you may want to get a second opinion. After all, doctors are human, too, and they may be biased by the limits of their own experience and knowledge. Talk to your doctor about :
  • all the options available
  • the kinds of complications possible (and their likelihood)
  • the success rate for the procedure
  • how long it will probably take you to recover
  • the costs involved..

Getting a realistic idea of when you can expect to be back to normal is very important so that you can plan ahead and not be worried about needing to return to your normal routine too soon. This is especially important if you will need to take time off from work, if you care for children or other family members, or if you will need help at home after you leave the hospital.

Almost all procedures involve some form of anesthesia. Know what kind of anesthesia will be used for the procedure. A local anesthesia will only affect the part of your body having the procedure and will wear off quickly; with a local anesthesia, you will be awake and fully aware of the procedure while it is being performed. A regional anesthesia will affect a larger part of your body, but you will still probably be awake. If you are having a major medical procedure, you may be put to sleep by a general anesthesia. You will not feel any pain during the procedure, but you may experience some nausea unless you have been given some medication to prevent it. It will take longer to recover from the drowsy effects of general anesthesia.

Review any medications, herbal supplements, and vitamins that you are taking with your doctor. This is especially true of any medicines that are "blood thinners." Make sure you know if you should stop taking any these and how long before and after you should not use them. Your doctor should tell you if you should not eat or drink the day before your procedure.

Try to have a family member or close friend go with you to the hospital and stay there during your procedure, especially if the procedure involves anything but a local anesthesia or has risks of serious complications. It helps to have someone you trust dedicated to monitoring your situation. This person can ask the hospital staff appropriate questions and ensure that you are getting the attention that you need. They can also relay your condition to family members and friends, and let them know when you have recovered sufficiently to take phone calls and to receive guests. In extreme circumstances, your advocate can make sure the terms of any living will or medical power of attorney you have signed are faithfully carried out. If you are having an out patient procedure, you should never drive yourself home, so you will need someone to help you.

Hospitals are not hotels and sometimes emergencies do force changes from arrangements previously made. That said, there are some things that you can try to do to make your stay more comfortable. Most standard hospital rooms have two patients assigned to them. You may want to inquire about a private (or 'allergy free') room, especially if you have allergies, reduced immunities, or don't want to have to deal with a stranger, possible middle of the night visits by the nurses and doctors to them, and visits by their friends and family. Keep in mind that in most cases, private rooms are not covered by your insurance or simply may not be available. Also, having a roommate can actually make an extended stay more pleasant and less lonely.

Finally, plan for your own comfort. You may want to bring a comfortable bathrobe and pair of slippers with you for when you are able to get up and move about before you are discharged. You should also plan for something to keep you occupied and entertained while you are recuperating. Most hospitals provide television, but there may be a charge for its use. You may also want to bring a good book, magazine or portable CD or MP3 player. Eye masks and ear plugs can help you sleep, particularly if you will not be in a private room.
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