Hospital Stays

How to Make Them More Comfortable, by Mina O’Shea

Here are some tips that we have learned which help to make the patient more comfortable and safe when in the hospital. These apply to any admittance type. P1000695First Action                         

Before the patient goes into the room, everything that is within reach should be sterilized with Clorox wipes.  I was doing this once and the nurse came in and said “that is a really good idea because the previous patient had RSV (a highly contagious lung infection). Pay close attention to anything that is frequently touched, especially the remote for the TV, handrails on the bed, door knobs, faucet handles, etc. You have to be very vigilant on this point and do not expect overworked staff to be as through as you would be. This one precaution could literally save a life.


All hospital beds are made of plastic so that they can be sterilized. This plastic makes for a sweaty place to have your body. If you ask for two sheets and place these on the mattress this insulates the patients body from overheating due to contact with plastic. One sheet us just not enough to have in place. You have to use two on top of each other. I also use this tip for those plastic recliners that the partner or parent’s have to sleep in.   All pillows are also plastic and the solution is the same, use two pillowcases and the pillows will be far more comfortable.


For patients that cannot get out of bed, watching out for bedsores is a serious matter. These usually affect bedridden patients. A separate article covers this problem thoroughly.


Boredom is an enemy of morale. You want to make every effort (where possible) to keep the patient interested in life around them. You also want to be cheerful while trying to keep them or get them being cheerful as well. This requires things of interest to do. Magazines to look through, books to read, deck of cards to play cards with other patients or visitors, taking a walk, watching a good movie, etc. Just being there and care could be a huge support to a lonely patient.


It is very important to keep the bowels moving. Many medications slow down the digestive processes, particularly painkillers of any kind. Get permission from your doctor to use a fiber supplement. There are many of these products on the market. We use Fiber-Sure because it melts in water, has no taste, and no other added supplements in its ingredients. If the bowels are not moving the body re-absorbs the poisons it is trying to get rid of. Try to eat high fiber foods that keep everything moving because quite a few medications cause constipation and this is why you want healthier/simpler foods. Such as salads, fruits and vegetables raw and cooked, small portions of meats and raw nuts in small portions should be consumed while avoiding; breads, rice, milk, cheese, bananas, fried foods, gluten, (or any wheat based products), and any foods high in fat.

I cannot place enough emphasis on how important digestion is to health. If you make a high priority on what you eat, with an emphasis on eating high fiber, nutritious foods, including portions of raw food as well as fermented and cooked, you will experience renewed health and vigor.  These principles are especially important for patients of any kind.


I am very opposed to sodas in general but especially when someone is ill. Soda is very acidic and this can cause more stress to the body. If the patient has a favorite drink that is not harmful to them, bring it to the hospital. We bring good water and Emergen-C packets. For me, I bring Green Tea bags in my suit case, emergenc-packetlineupalong with Truvia (a natural no calorie sweetener.) I always double-check with the doctor before using the Emergen-C  in case it does not mix with any medications the hospital has administered.

The idea is to have some creature comforts for the patient, whatever they may be.


If the doctor tells you that they are going to start a new drug, request a print out of the drug. This way you can read up on the side effects and ask questions about the medication. Beware that side effects listed are not always communicated accurately. One drug that Emily received stated that it could cause the “shakes” when in fact the side effect is called “rigors” which are very painful and look like Charley-horses all over the body. The only answer for this problem is a shot of Demerol, one of the most addictive drugs there are. This is why all drugs should be researched and understood prior to administration so that you are prepared for possible side effects.

Keep track of all drugs, dosages and administration. The staff work long hours, have big caseloads and are human, therefore mistakes can happen. If you write down the drugs, dose and times given, this will help to oversee the care of the patient.


Cabin Fever is when a person gets stressed from being confined. Ask the doctor if you can go for a walk outside. If the patient is too weak to walk, the hospital can provide a wheelchair. Florence Nightingale was a proponent of fresh air and sunshine to aid healing. Being able to see new scenery is also a big benefit for people stuck in a hospital.

NO Flowers and Plants  no-picking-flowers-sign-sticker-466

Check with your physician before allowing gifts of flowers or plants. Most cancer patients or any immune compromised patients cannot be around things that can carry unknown dangers in the soil or even the plant. Plants and cut flowers can have mold or fungus on them that we cannot see. Plants can have fungus in the soil. Please check with patients family or play it safe and do not consider plants or flowers as a gift.


Personally, I do not like hospital food and Emily hates it. In most cases any patient would love to get food from outside a hospital. For those of you looking for ideas because your are undergoing treatment on a regular basis then here you go. I keep hamburgers that I make at home and store in the freezer. If we are going to the hospital I put the burgers in a lunch box with a freezer pack and bring them with us. Upon arrival, once admitted, my first trip is to a local grocery store and I purchase food that can be stored in the freezer at the hospital. Most grocery stores sell Amy’s organic bean burritos. These are easy, affordable and taste good. Food like this is ideal for ill patients. Vegetables, fruits, organic sandwich meats, and gluten-free grains, should be consumed regularly. Oatmeal is one of our staples for the hospital.


I went to a thrift store and purchased a stack of old magazines specifically for the hospital. They cost me about $2.00 total.  For some reason patients like to look at magazines and photographs. They are a nice addition to a hospital stay that can be very boring.

Medical Staff

It is in your best interest to get to know the staff that are caring for you or your loved one. You are part of a team working towards an improved health situation. Always treat the staff with respect and courtesy. I have seen people scream at medical staff and frankly it is a terrible mistake to partake in this type of behavior, it just doesn’t help the situation at all.

I have noticed that when I am proactive in Emily’s care, the medical staff really appreciate this. They respect a caregiver or patient asking questions, getting written information, and working towards improvement.  


Emily and I always bring our favorite pillows to the hospital. This makes a huge difference for us. Please feel free to bring your favorite things (that can be transported easily) with you.


Contrary to modern belief sugar is bad for you, especially if your body is in a weakened condition. Your digestive tract is composed of good and bad bacteria. Sugar feeds mold and fungus and the result is propagating these colonies of bad bacteria. Antibiotics wipe out both the good and bad bacteria. Pasta turns into sugar when digested. Try to eat healthy food and avoid sugary foods. Take a probiotic (a supplement that feeds the good bacteria in your digestive tract.) Fermented foods are excellent for providing good bacteria to the gut, like sauerkraut are excellent for digestion. Try to eat high fiber foods that keep everything moving because quite a few medications cause constipation and this is why you want these healthier foods should be consumed while avoiding; breads, rice, milk, cheese, bananas, fried foods, gluten, (or any wheat based products), and any foods high in fat.


My surgeon told me that the first 48 hours are very crucial after surgery. He strongly stated how important it is to walk and get the body moving as soon as possible after surgery. This helps to prevent the formation of scar tissue and also wake up digestion from sedation. Obviously, there are surgical procedures that would prevent movement of the patient, check with medical staff before surgery and how soon after surgery they want the patient up and around.


It is a known fact that it can be difficult to get sleep in a hospital. One of the things you can do is request that no vitals are taken in the middle of the night. Of course this requires judgment on your part. If the illness is not serious and there is no fever you can request no interruptions of your sleep. Talk to your doctor about this and see what they say. We have done this when I felt it was safe to do so. You can also check if the amount of nightly checks could be lessened from every two hours to maybe three hours. This could make a huge difference for the patient. It is worth a discussion with your medical team.

For care-givers or parents staying at the hospital natural sleep aids such as Melatonin, Chamomile tea, Magnesium and others are available at many stores. My hospital suitcase has a small bottle of Melatonin in it at all times because it is not easy to sleep at a hospital.


This subject is rife with controversy but the fact is that our food has less vitamin content than it used to have. Even if a person eats a great, healthy diet they could become deficient in vitamins. Your local health food store has liquid supplements for children. I recommend these because the dosages are low and they are made to taste good. My elderly step-mother used these children’s vitamins with success.   An excellent manufacturer is Source of Life who has a line called Animal Parade. Here is a link so that you can print out the ingredients for your doctor. This way they can look at the ingredients and look at your medications to make sure there are no contraindications.

All-Children’s-Hospital-medical-staff told me that any supplements made from food sources are fine. Examples of this would be Wheatgrass juice or powder, Barley Greens, Acai Juice, Noni juice, and others.

Emily takes a wide array of supplements and other patients always remark how good she looks despite taking chemo everyday. She is a living testament of how much supplementation has helped her quality of life.   That is what all of this is about, QUALITY OF LIFE! There are no claims being made here with regards to “cures” as this would be false. This is solely about helping the patient in terms of out look, physical or mental duress, etc. Supplements (at the right dose) do help and do not have the accompanying complications that come with medications. We have learned the hard way that all medications have associated problems and I use supplements to try and mitigate these problems. Our Oncology team has also helped us with dosages and supplements.

If you are not sure and want to get something for a patient check on the Internet or ask the physician before purchasing but like I said earlier you can purchase juice based products/liquids that would probably be okay. If not sure, find product on Internet and print out the Ingredients for medical consultation.


Please research for yourself all of this information contained here. Get educated, as this will empower you. Although I give lots of advice, everyone is different and reacts differently to all of these things. Do your home-work, ask your doctor lots of questions. Print out these pages and go over each point with your medical team. At least here, you have a starting point.




Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor nor medically trained in any way. The information contained herein, is for educational purposes only. It is understood that you will consult your medical doctor before undertaking any actions that could conflict with your specific medical protocol.



Copyright © 2018 Deb Witter