Staying in hospital with your child – what you’ll need

If your child has been admitted to hospital, they are probably staying on a children' cancer ward. These are generally friendly, positive places and staff will offer both you and your child plenty of help and support.

What facilities can I expect?

Most children’s wards have staff and facilities to help keep your child occupied. Only your child is eligible for hospital meals, but there will usually be a kitchen where you can make a cup of tea and possibly prepare snacks. There are usually showers available for parents and a place to wash your clothes.

Most hospitals provide information about their wards, facilities and the local area. You can check out UK hospitals in your area.

What should I bring with me?

Some items that other parents like to keep packed for a hospital stay include:

  • Toiletries – lip balm, hand cream and moisturisers can be particularly handy
  • Entertainment for your child – whether that’s toys, games, activity books, portable DVD player or pre-downloaded apps on a smartphone or tablet
  • Your phone or tablet charger
  • Your child’s favourite snacks and drinks
  • Books and magazines to keep you occupied
  • Clothes for you and your child
  • Something snuggly for your child to wear such as pyjamas, slippers or dressing gowns
  • Diary or organiser and a pen to take notes
  • Washing powder or liquid
  • Anything your child will find comforting to have with them such as a cuddly toy or photographs.

Tips for coping with ward life

  • Aim to get off the ward for a short break each day, even if it’s just for a quick coffee or a walk around the block. Ward staff will support you with this. When you leave the ward, let a member of staff know how long you’ll be gone and how to contact you if necessary.
  • Try to keep things as normal as possible for you and your child – that includes the usual boundaries you set for their behaviour.
  • If you have any worries or questions, talk to a member of your child’s care team. It may be helpful to write down questions as they occur, so you remember them.
  • Most children’s wards have a TV and video games available and these can be a useful way for you and your child to build relationships with other families.
  • Try taking an active role in your child’s care by helping them with meals, wheeling their drip, taking them to the toilet and so on.
  • If your child is struggling to cope with aspects of treatment, most children’s wards have play specialists who can help. They use play to help children understand what’s happening and cope with their treatment.
  • Feel free to draw the curtain round and spend some quiet time with your child when you need to. Occasionally, you may be asked not to do this if staff want to closely observe your child. Just ask if you aren’t sure.

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