Of course the first choice is to avoid hospitalizations at almost any cost. If that's impossible, there are things to keep in mind that will make your stay easier. If you're the person visiting or staying with a patient, extrapolate this to apply to you as the significant other!
Hospitals are fairly dangerous places. Keep that in mind. You will be sleeping, eating, bathing in a strange place, not your home. Rooms are thoroughly cleaned between patients, but you are being exposed to germs that you are not familiar with. If you're up and around, wash your hands a lot.
People will be coming into your room - there is no way to lock your door. Anybody who works in a hospital in these days wears an employee badge with a picture. If someone comes into your room, and you can't see the badge, ask who she is and what she wants.
If possible, have someone you know and/or love stay with you as much as possible. You're going to be lonesome and nervous and under stress. You'll feel better with someone to talk to, or even just to sit next to you and watch that horrible TV with you. Daytime TV is never uplifting, is it?
Nurses and techs will check on you, but we/they don't have time to stay and talk and reassure you as much as we and you would like. And we cannot stay in your room all the time. So, if you tend to get confused in the night and climb out of bed without thinking about it, then you should definitely have someone stay with you.
Try to think of questions for your doctor and write them down. I guarantee that your doctor is going to do his rounds first thing in the morning, and you're going to have trouble remembering some of the things that you need to bring to his attention. Things like: I'm on a bloodpressure medicine at home that I don't seem to be getting here. But if you're in hospital, for a relatively minor procedure and expect to go home soon, now is not the time to ask your doctor to have an ear doctor come by and check out year earwax problem.
If you have some kind of episode of some sort that MIGHT be medically significant, call the nurse to your room and let her know about it. I've had family members tell me Oh, by the way, Fred here had an episode of chest pain last night, but we didn't tell the night nurse about it. He feels fine, now, I guess. Just thought I'd mention it.
If you're the significant other (SO), do not answer questions that the nurses/doctors are asking the patient. Unless the doctor or nurse looks to you for an answer or confirmation of what the patient said, then, please do answer.
Push your nurse call button and when the clerk at the desk answers, do not tell her "I need my nurse" if you want a drink, or you need your trash carried away from your bed, or you need to go to the bathroom. If you tell the desk clerk approximately what you need, she may page the tech to answer this call, if it's appropriate.
Please try to remember that your nurse is assigned to a number of patients, and the number is probably larger than either of you would prefer. We always try to answer our calls as quickly as possible. But if you need your urinal emptied, sometimes I'm going to have to tell you I'll be right back to do it. If I have a syringe of pain medicine in my hand when I received your call, obviously I'm going to have to finish that task first.
I almost hate to suggest it, but if you have a very close family member with you, it might not be a bad idea for that person to just kind of note how much urine is in the urinal and carry it to the toilet and dump it. I'm not asking you to delegate this chore to your bowling buddy, but if there's a signficant other, perhaps it wouldn't be inappropriate. I know this isn't good customer relations, but it's an option, isn't it?
Oh please pay attention to this one: Do NOT take your meal tray and place it on the floor outside of your door. This might be strictly my personal peeve, but I just hate that! I'm a nurse. I start work at 6:38 am, and I get off at 7:08 pm at the earliest. I'm always tired, my feet always hurt, my back almost always aches. I'm trying to protect my back from serious injury. I really don't want to have to bend down to the floor to pick up after you.
If you have a question or you need something, press the nurse call button. Please give this a decent try before you go out into the hall and grab the first nurse you see. I admit that this understaffing problem sometimes affects the front desk, and sometimes they don't answer the call as promptly as seems right. And if it's an emergency, or there's a really good reason -- okay, feel free to seek help as best you can. But if you want to know if your brother can have a Coke, the nurse standing at another patient's door isn't going to know that. Is he diabetic? Is he NPO for a test or procedure, is he capable of swallowing?
If you do come out into the hall in search of a nurse, please identify yourself and/or your patient and/or the room number you're coming out of. I may have talked with you just minutes ago over the bed of your loved one. And your face will undoubtedly look familiar to me. But I'm not 100% sure I can place your face with the face of your patient. And if I'm not your nurse, if I know who the patient is, what room he's in, then I will know who your nurse is.
Do not bring little children to visit in the hospital! This is just something I cannot get used to! I know of a child; an innocent, lovely baby, who caught a dread disease and died because his parents didn't think we meant it when we said it's not safe to bring a baby into the hospital room. I've told mothers toting little kids past isolation rooms that this person is too little to visit the hospital, and been told "I know it." as they carry on down the hall.
Okay, here's the straight scoop on this hospital/kids thing. There is nothing in the world germier than a preschooler. We have very sick people in hospital; people who already have enough problems! Our sick people are innocent of the germs that your lovely preschooler is going to be carrying around.
Your preschooler is innocent to the germs that we have in hospital. Believe me, there are worse germs in the halls of a hospital than the cold, flu, chickenpox germs!
Yeah, I'm the mean nurse that tells you not to bring your kids onto my floor. and No, it's not okay if they just go in for a minute to say hi. Honest to God, if you can not visit the hospital without your kid, either don't visit, or bring someone along who can stay with the kid in the waiting room. It is not safe for little children to visit a hospital! It's not safe for them, and it's not safe for the patients.