Staying in hospital

The worst part about hospital is that it can be B-O-R-I-N-G. If you have to stay in for long stretches of time, you're going to need to pack the real essentials, have plenty of entertainment on hand and learn how to look after yourself on the ward.

Packing the essentials

Ok, so hospital packing isn’t exactly holiday packing but it’s similar in principle. You need stuff for comfort, stuff to keep you connected and stuff to combat the boredom. These are some of the things that other people said were vital to their hospital stays.

  • Something snuggly for your feet like slippers or slipper socks
  • Comfortable clothes like baggy t-shirts and joggers
  • Smartphone or tablet. Download an array of games, apps, digital books or podcasts to keep you busy
  • Charger. Never forget the charger
  • Puzzle and activity books. Mindfulness colouring books are so the rage right now
  • Favourite snacks or drinks
  • Headphones to listen to videos, music, audiobooks or podcasts – if you’re listening on a smart device, pre-download them or make them available offline in case you have problems with the internet connection in hospital
  • Or go retro with an MP3 player, hand-held games console or portable DVD player
  • Essential toiletries. Moisturisers, hand cream and lip balm can be especially handy
  • Notebook and pen
  • Some cash in case there’s anything you need from the shops – or you fancy a decent coffee!
  • Books and magazines
  • Photos or anything precious you want to have near you – especially something that makes you smile.

Boredom-busting activities and entertainment

Being in hospital can be very tedious. It’s normal to want to switch off. You might not think it but boredom can actually affect your mood and make you feel low. While it’s important to allow your body to rest, keeping your brain active will give you something positive to focus on.

Our ideas below feature free or cheap online courses and apps which you can dip in and out of. Master online coding, get knitting, learn  Spanish, improve your creative writing or start yoga – there’s something for everyone!

It’s very important to keep yourself entertained and try and keep your brain active because it’s so easy just to switch off and just try and sleep the whole thing through.

Managing visitors on your terms

Seeing the people you love can also make a massive difference. Check with your hospital how visiting works. If there are no fixed visitor times, planning for people to drop in at different points throughout the day can break up your time and can make days pass quicker. It will also help to avoid visitors turning up at the same time and not being able to spend quality time with anyone.

There will no doubt be days when you feel too tired to see people, or just can’t deal. That’s totally fine – it needs to be on your terms. Ask friends and family to text before they come so you can manage who comes and when.

Stay connected

Many of us are used to having social media, emails, videos, search engines, online games and entertainment at our fingertips. Having access to all of this can feel even more important in hospital and it’s frustrating if you can’t get online. Some hospitals will offer wifi but if it’s too expensive or you don’t have access, you could check your phone’s data plan or buy a dongle or SIM card.

Looking after yourself

Regular, gentle exercise is often encouraged throughout cancer treatment. You’ll probably be warned off rugby and mountain climbing for the time being, but there’s plenty of other ways to keep your fitness level up. This will help you feel better in your body and mind – and give you something to do! Win, win, win. Talk to your team for some ideas. There might even be fitness programmes or classes going on at your treatment centre.

Eating well is also part of taking responsibility for your own health and wellbeing. You’ll be provided with meals where you’re treated, although your family and friends will have to make their own arrangements. Some wards now have their own chefs, which means you may be able to choose what to eat and when.

Take notice of how you feel and follow advice from dietitians. Some ward food might not feel particularly appealing while you’re being treated, so check with your ward you or someone else can bring food in. Also, make sure to tell the staff if you have particular requirements, like kosher, halal, vegetarian or gluten-free.

You might also like to read

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Taking control of your care

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Body image and cancer treatment

Dealing with changes to your body can knock your confidence. Here's how to boost your self-esteem.

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