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What to Pack (and Not to Pack) for the Hospital.
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What to Pack (and Not to Pack) for the Hospital.

Well-planned packing helps make vacations more enjoyable. Likewise, what you pack for your own or a loved one’s admission to the hospital can make for a smoother, less stressful experience.

The following is a review of necessities for a hospital packing list, as well as items that can make a hospital stay more comfortable—plus those things that are best left at home.

Must-Have Items and Information

Important medical documents and health care information serve as you or your loved one’s passport to the hospital. Be sure to bring:

  • Photo ID
  • Insurance and Medicare cards, along with pre-certification and other documentation required by insurers
  • A list of all the medications—prescription and over-the-counter—you or your loved is currently taking, along with the dosage. (However, in most cases, hospitals ask that you bring only those medications that the physician requests.)
  • A copy of advance health care directives, such as durable power of attorney for health care and living will
  • A personal health record that includes information such as allergies, health conditions, immunization record and reports of recent tests or physical exams
  • Reports your physician gave you to bring to the hospital
  • A list of telephone numbers of family and friends to be contacted as needed

To avoid misplacing any of the important paperwork and information—which is critical for facilitating a patient’s treatment—keep it all together in one folder.

For Your Comfort

Hospitals often encourage patients and their families to bring other items to help make a hospital stay more pleasant or comfortable. Hospitals provide gowns and toiletries, but they generally invite patients to bring their own pajamas, bathrobe, cardigan sweater, non-slip socks or slippers, comb, brush, lotions, toothbrush and toothpaste, and lip balm. However, avoid perfumes and any highly-scented products. Keep in mind that short sleeves are best to accommodate intravenous lines.

Check ahead of time to find out what the hospital will allow. This information often can be found on the hospital’s Web site.

Other things to bring include:

  • Protective containers for holding eyeglasses or dentures when not in use
  • Books, magazines, crossword puzzles to help pass the time
  • Paper and pen for jotting down notes and questions—to help you remember to ask doctors or nurses when they are in the room
  • A small amount of money for newspapers and magazines and other items from the gift shop or vending machines.
  • Photos or small personal items. However, keep in mind that space is limited.
  • Clothing to wear home at discharge

Items to Leave at Home

Hospitals cannot be responsible for patients’ personal belongings. Generally, they recommend against bringing valuables. Specific things to leave off the packing list:

  • Cell phones.  In most cases, these are not permitted in patient care areas as they can interfere with heart monitors and other patient monitoring equipment
  • Tobacco products, because smoking is prohibited in health care facilities
  • Credit cards, checkbooks, large amounts of cash, jewelry, high-end portable music players and other valuables, as they can easily be stolen amidst the activity of a hospital patient care unit

Before bringing any type of electronic items, check the hospital’s policy. Items that need to be plugged in generally are forbidden as their wiring does not meet hospital-grade standards. If you or a loved one does bring a portable electronic device, make sure it is in the care of a friend or loved one while the patient is sleeping or out of the room.

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