Some 1.5 million children go into hospital each year. The process can be a scary one; being uprooted from home, school, family and friends, not to mention the worries of potentially painful, and often confusing, medical treatments.
TIPS ON HANDLING YOUR CHILD’S STAY IN HOSPITAL
1. Get some children’s books about hospital.
Staying calm and talking things through will reassure your child. You can work through their fears by getting them to act out scenarios with toys and reading one of these books with them:
• Jim’s Lion – by Russell Hoban
• Going to the Hospital - by Anne Civardi
• Paddington Goes to Hospital - by Michael Bond
2. Contact the hospital directly beforehand for advice.
Your hospital may have a specialist who organises play and helps prepare children for their treatment.
3. Check to see if we have a Ronald McDonald House there.
If yes, contact the hospital ward for information on availability. Staying in or near hospital grounds will save you travelling time and disruption, helping you pull together as a family.
4. Visit the ward beforehand.
Your child will find it reassuring to meet the medical team and familiarise themselves with the surroundings. Make sure you bring with you your child’s favourite toy, book or clothing item. Usually, the consultant will meet you and your child and talk to you both about your child’s condition and treatment.
Doctors who work in paediatrics are specially trained to understand how anxious children can get, and to help your child feel as relaxed as possible when they are being examined.
5. Spend as much time with them as you want
You can stay 24 hours a day if you like. Ask staff to show your child some of the instruments – this will help your child feel a bit more in control. Play with your child to relax them. For an older child, DVDs and computer games can be a good distraction.
Stay close to your child at all times. If you need to leave the hospital, tell them when you’ll be back and make sure you’re on time.
6. Ask the staff questions.
When your child is in hospital, find out who your named nurse is, and go to them first with your questions. Always ask questions to make sure you’re being listened to and to reassure yourself that staff are doing everything they can to help. Tell your child what is going on and be honest if it’s going to hurt.
7. Involve your other children in what’s happening and encourage them to write a card or make a little present.
All hospitals let brothers and sisters visit. Be aware that most wards are worried about spreading viruses, so may only allow families to visit at certain times, particularly Oncology and Neonatal wards and those caring for liver transplant patients.
It is also worth keeping in mind that some children’s wards have a restricted sibling policy due to the importance of infection control. Check with the hospital beforehand what their procedure is for visiting.
If you’re staying in a Ronald McDonald House you can all sleep over together and visit the hospital as and when the ward allows you to.
8. Keep a close eye on your child when they return home.
They may still have nightmares or may be a little naughtier to begin with when they first come home. This is natural and with love and attention will ebb away.
For more tips see www.nhs.uk
WHAT TO BRING TO HOSPITAL WITH YOUR CHILD
1. Admission letter: Details such as where to go when you arrive and the date of your child’s admission.
2. Information: Your child’s health record or clinic book, your contact details and your GP’s details.
3. Medicines: In their original containers, if at all possible.
4. Clothes: Pyjamas, lightweight day clothes, underwear and shoes. Remember, hospitals are often hot places so be sure to pack lightweight clothes. If you intend to stay with them, bring your own belongings too. No electrical items though.
5. Toiletries: Hairbrush, shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, towel, flannel and paper tissues.
6. Toys: A special toy or comforter. Label it if possible.
7. Baby foods and feeding equipment: Phone the ward before admission to discuss your baby’s special feeding needs.
8. Money and valuables: An older child may need change for phone calls, magazines, etc. Keep valuables to a minimum.
TIPS ON PREPARING CHILDREN FOR THEIR RETURN HOME
1. Discuss the plans for going home with your child so they know what’s happening. If they’ve been in hospital for a while, they’ll probably be really excited, but may also feel apprehensive about leaving the familiarity of the ward.
2. No matter how nervous you may be, you must remain positive around your child. Good vibes and confidence are contagious and will make your child feel at ease with the idea of going home.
3. Remember to take it slowly. Things are unlikely to get back to normal straightaway, so parents should ensure their expectations of the child’s recovery are realistic.