How to Navigate Your Hospital Stay With UCby Shawntel Bethea Patient Advocate
For most people, hospitalizations are a rare occurrence. Unfortunately, many of us living with ulcerative colitis (UC) are no strangers to emergency rooms and hospitalizations. It can be difficult to navigate life with UC without being in and out of the hospital, so the added visits can make it feel nearly impossible. Here are some helpful tips and tricks to make your hospital stay go a little more smoothly.
Write down a list of your concerns
Hospitals are busy, and at times patients can feel rushed, causing us to forget certain concerns or what brought us to the hospital in the first place. Writing down a list of concerns as you experience them can help to relieve this stress. This also serves as a resource if you’re too fatigued or sick to speak for yourself.
Keep an up-to-date list of medications with you
Having a list of medications can be just as helpful. If you’re taking multiple medications, it can be easy to forget one or even mention a medication you’ve already stopped taking. Keeping an updated list of medications is useful not only for yourself, but for the people around you in case you’re unable to speak for yourself or you’re in need of immediate attention.
Use online check-in if it’s available
Certain health care facilities will allow you to utilize online check-in. This serves as a way to speed up your registration process and allows you to add yourself to the waitlist before you step foot outside of your home. I encourage you to see if this feature is available at a facility near you.
There are masks, so use them
Hospitals are full of germs, and for those of us who are immunocompromised, this can be dangerous. Take precautions. Use the available hand sanitizer and ask for a face mask.
Extra information doesn’t hurt
When I had an ostomy, I realized just how little people know about UC and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) as a whole. Keeping a pocket-sized cheat sheet that explains your condition and symptoms can’t hurt and may even help to avoid a lot of confusion when navigating your hospital stay.
Bring drinks and snacks
Waiting to be seen can be a long and daunting process. I remember spending five hours in an emergency room waiting for care once. You must put yourself first. You’ll only make your situation worse by starving or becoming dehydrated. Ask a professional if it’s OK, and, if so, have a snack or drink. Bring things that are quick and easy to digest.
Have a ‘go’ bag
Because living with UC is a chronic battle, having a bag packed and ready at all times is essential. Keep your go-to items in this bag, and anytime you’re feeling low, just throw it in the car. For me, this certainly relieves a bit of stress. Not having to worry about borrowing footies or forgetting my toothbrush is a great feeling.
Create a playlist, or several
Relieve a little emergency room stress by creating a playlist in advance. Add songs that bring you joy and comfort. Take this time to meditate or just try to relax.
Bring a friend or loved one
It’s OK to be human. You don’t have to be strong all the time — we all need a break at some point. Bring someone you love and trust to advocate for you when you’re not feeling up to the challenge. Caregivers can be a huge help not only for the patient but the providers as well.
Have your paperwork in order
It’s a good idea to always keep critical paperwork with you or on file at the hospital. If you have a power of attorney or any kind of health care proxy, it’s important to make your health care providers aware of this. In case something happens, they’ll know who to contact and what your wishes are.
Being prepared can help you stay calm
With your UC flaring or causing complications, you already have a ton on your mind. Knowing these tips and tricks to be prepared can help relieve any extra stress when a medical emergency strikes and leads you to the hospital.