How to pack for a stay in a rehabilitation hospital
In the last two weeks I’ve learned a lot about what should be packed for patients who will be staying a while in a rehab facility! The information I give here may vary slightly in different rehab hospitals but not by much!
Short version of How to Pack for a Rehab Hospital Stay:
Pack simple and comfortable outfits, like a slightly baggy sweatsuit (for wheelchair comfort, ease of pulling it up, and/or room for a diaper and/or catheter)
If possible, put an outfit together for the patient and leave it sitting out each night! It makes it easier for the person helping the patient dress
Bring any special toiletries like toothpaste brands, deodorants, etc – make sure the patient won’t run out.
Bring fitted diapers if needed – the elastic underwear ones
Bring some pictures, flowers, balloons, cards…anything that gives the room a personal touch and reminds the staff (and patient) this person is LOVED and REMEMBERED!
UPDATE: My friend Burt pointed out that stenciling your name into ALL items brought into the hospital is a really good idea! Things DO get lost!
Long version of How to Pack for a Rehab Hospital Stay:
WHAT TO PACK FOR A STAY IN A REHAB HOSPITAL/WHAT TO CONSIDER:
The patient will be given a basin for basic washing (and should have access to a shower at some point in the day), as well as some basic toiletries as needed, like a comb and toothbrush. The patient will have on a basic gown and may have the possibility of being double-gowned or given paper scrubs, but it is by far best to have the patient’s own clothes. I recommend you have basic clothes that can be mixed/matched, and that are very comfortable to have on while in a wheelchair all day. If possible, sweat pants are good – the patient may end up with a diaper and/or catheter and could use the extra room in the pants. Plus, sweatpants are easy to put on, even with one hand. If you are visiting daily, consider putting an outfit out for the next day. Otherwise the patient and therapist or nurse have to spend time figuring out what to wear, which often involves the patient pondering a while or having to direct the therapist/nurse in finding exactly what he/she is talking about. I can’t tell you how many times I had to unzip suitcases or root through dirty clothes trying to find what the patient was talking about. The patient will probably be given socks that have traction stickies on them, but will probably also be wearing compression stockings for a while. Consider bringing a pair of sneakers and some socks, just in case or for when the patient doesn’t have to wear the stockings anymore (it’s usually based on their diagnosis or how far they walk – it is to help prevent DVT). Also have a basic toiletry bag with any special toothpaste, special brushes, special makeup, special deodorant, special anything, since the stuff provided by the hospitals will be cheap and generic. AND – it seems most patients in rehab hospitals are in diapers. The diapers provided by hospitals are usually generic wrap-arounds like the ones used on babies. Consider buying the type of diapers that have elastic in them and can be pulled up like underwear. Patients seem to really prefer those. Buy a lot!
Consider bringing in basic candies/snacks if the patient can tolerate them/is not diabetic. Also, I cannot stress this enough – pictures of your family or the patient – as well as signs of outside presence like balloons or flowers or cards or even just writing on the bulletin boards- is really, really helpful, in an indirect way. I think it may sometimes be easy for rehab staff to forget that this patient is a loved person who was not always as low-level as he/she may currently be. While I never saw any instance of a nurse or staff member being mean or unhelpful to a patient, I think that those patients who had that extra touch, helped remind us of their “real” life. At least, that was the case with me! When I would see a patient who seemed barely able to function and was hard to understand, it was only those pictures that helped me realize this was a loved being with a family and a history that far exceeded that of which I was currently seeing.
Moving on. The patient will probably be woken up in the morning by either a therapist or nurse to do some basic washing and grooming, before being taken to breakfast. The patient will then have a combination of OT, PT, and possibly speech, along with breaks, until around 3pmish. Books or other ways to pass the time – playing cards, magazines, etc, would be appreciated. Don’t forget to write a thank-you card for all the staff when the patient leaves, if you think they did a good job. Even just a simple “Thanks for all your hard work!” on a sheet of printer paper can boost morale. Overall, I felt like all the rehab staff at my hospital did a great job of being compassionate and caring!
I wrote up this list because it seemed to me that a lot of families would pack slightly differently if they knew what I mentioned above. Keep the toiletries and clothes simple, keep the clothing comfortable, keep whole outfits easily at hand, and provide personal touches like flowers, cards, balloons, messages, or taped-up pictures.