My mom called me to tell me my dad had a fever. At the time, I lived in fear of fevers. Fevers meant infection. Infection meant a hospital stay, which also meant an argument.
He didn’t want to go to the hospital. Neither did I, really, it was Sunday night. Why did these things always seem to happen on a weekend or a holiday?!
He almost had me convinced. I was on the verge of agreeing to wait until tomorrow when he said, “I can’t talk anymore. I gotta go, it’s star time.”
Uh oh. That’s not good, I thought. Definitely an infection talking (delirium can accompany a urinary tract infection in seniors.) I hung up, got my car keys, and headed out to go take “Starman” to the hospital.
As my dad spent the summer in and out of the hospital, I learned how to make it easier with each stay.
Hospital Checklist: What to Bring to the Hospital
Here’s what to bring (and not bring) when you go to the hospital.
Bring both health insurance and prescription benefits cards, if you have different providers.
Identification and social security number
Bring an ID and if your social security number if you don’t have it memorized. If your spouse is the primary on your insurance, you may also need their social security number to verify coverage. (I keep that info in a password manager.)
If you take medications, the single best thing you can do to improve communication with healthcare professionals is to create a medication list and bring it with you when you go to the hospital or see any other healthcare provider.
Medical conditions summary
A short summary of any medical conditions will also be useful to anyone who doesn’t regularly provide you with care. Document the condition, date of onset, treatment, and treating physician.
Bring a mobile phone, if you have one.
Bring a list with important medical and personal contacts (if not already on your phone.)
Copies of your Advance Directives
Bring a copy of your Healthcare Power of Attorney and Living Will. (For more on advance directives see this Advance Care Planning Cheat Sheet.)
A friend or helper
If possible, bring someone with you to assist and advocate for you.
Pre-op paperwork or reports, if any
If you’re going to a hospital for a planned procedure, you may have been asked to bring in paperwork, lab results, or other pre-op documents. The check-in process will go faster if you bring those with you.
Small notebook and pen
When my brothers and I were visiting my mother in the hospital at different times, we found it helpful to leave each other notes in a notebook.
Don’t forget things like hearing aids, glasses and/or contacts, hand/leg braces, dentures, or other “devices” you use.
Cane, walker, and/or wheelchair
It’s easy to forget the things you need to stay mobile if you leave your house in an ambulance. Try to remember; you’ll need them when you start to feel better.
Tablet, books, and/or magazines
You may want something to entertain yourself while you wait.
Throat lozenges or hard candies
Your mouth or throat may be dry, especially after surgery.
Chargers (phone, tablet, electric razor, etc.)
Hospitals will only have the most essential toiletries. If you expect to be there for more than a night, consider bringing your own, preferred products.
Comfortable clothes (including warm socks)
Patience — you will be waiting
Hospital Checklist: What Not to Bring to the Hospital
- Valuables like jewelry, wallets, or purses
- Weapons (did I really need to remind you?)
- A bad attitude — research has shown that rudeness in a medical setting negatively affects the care you receive.
There may be times when you need to bring your own medication from home. For example, my dad was on a prescribed medication that was not commonly stocked in local or hospital pharmacies (he had to get it by mail order.)
If you do bring medication to the hospital, make sure the staff knows. They are responsible for administering it while you’re there, and knowing what you’re taking will also help them check for interactions and avoid mistakes.
So there you have it, a hospital checklist. I hope this can save you some time if you need to go to the hospital yourself!