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“Ready Bag” for Hospital – And Other Necessities

Well before the onslaught of SARS COVID-19, I was working on a hospital “kit” to accompany a person who needs to be hospitalized. Some of the items had explanations attached.

For example, as part of the kit, I recommended a box of sanitizing wipes and Purell hand gel. This seems quaint these days. These once widely available products are worth their weight in gold now. And the awareness of transmitting a deadly disease through the spread of invisible organisms has skyrocketed. But it wasn’t always so. It’s not just nostalgic; it’s still important to remember that the coronavirus is not the only source of infection.

Here's the note to go with these kit items:

Sanitizing wipes and Purell: Keep these in a prominent place so people will see them.

PROTECT YOURSELF

Hospital-caused infections are a major killer—and a major cause of suffering and extended hospital stays. Most infections are the result of the spreading of “germs” from patient to patient on the hands of physicians, nurses, and other hospital workers, as well as to each other.

What will increase the chance that our care will be better and that we will not fall victim to all-too-many hospital-acquired infections?  There is no question --based on innumerable studies – that the best way to reduce this problem is very low-tech: the people who touch you in the hospital just need to wash their hands. Although this has been known for 150 years, hospital workers simply don’t always follow the basic rules of hygiene. Most healthcare workers understand the importance of hand washing but just don’t consistently do it. Often, they aren’t even aware of how inconsistent they are.

Ask every healthcare worker (including doctors) and visitor to wash his or her hands before touching you, your food, your medications, or equipment that will come into contact with you. Some hospitals instruct patients at admission to ask every healthcare worker to wash his or her hands. But many hospitals don’t take this approach. You need to do it yourself.    Studies have found that one of the most effective ways—better than training programs or rewards and punishments—to get healthcare workers to wash their hands is for patients to ask them to do so.

Yes, this is a matter of life and death – and you need to push back against any aversion you might have to feeling rude or pushy.  Be polite, but not passive. You can simply explain that you are following the suggestion of an article you read.

Reminders breed consciousness of patient safety measures. Simply understanding that it is acceptable and possibly life-saving to ask that everyone who enters a patient's room wash or use hand sanitizers to clean their hands can also lead to other pro-active and helpful actions.

Here is a Sign to bring with you:

“To all who come to care for or visit me – medical staff or friends and family – please wash your hands on entering and when you leave my room.” 

Keep in mind, this was written well before COVID-19 made its presence known. And it will apply long after its threat is mitigated. It will always be important for us all to observe careful hand hygiene. As the virus has made emphatic, we transmit illnesses to each other on a daily basis in any setting.

While we can no longer make these items available, there are other important (or just nice to have) items that we can have ready to go if hospitalization becomes necessary.

Put these in a bag (clearly labeled with a luggage tag) ready to go just in case. Visitors may not be allowed, so it’s especially important to have these things ready.

1. List of emergency contacts and phone numbers on paper.  This is crucial in case the patient is unconscious and phone is locked or battery ran out.

2. List of medications: name, dose, frequency. (Include initials after name of medication such as: XL, IR, ER, SR. These refer to how the drugs are formulated to be released into the blood stream.) Make sure the list is up to date.

3. List of emergency contacts and phone numbers on paper.  This is crucial in case the patient is unconscious and phone is locked or battery ran out.

4. Primary Care Doctor. Full name, phone number, and office address. 

5. A notepad with your name and phone number written on it and a couple of pens.

6. Cell phone charger - You could be in the emergency room for 6 to 48 hours!

7. Toothbrush and hair brush.

8. Extra underwear. (Depending on the condition of the patient)

9. Book / something to read.

10. Copies of legal paperwork such as Advance Health Care Directive, or POLST, if applicable. Copies of these, as well as emergency contact information should also be attached to the refrigerator. EMTs will check there.

11. CPAP machine information

12. If patient has a pacemaker or defibrillator: a copy of the pocket information card that states the brand, model number, and MRI compatibility.

13. If the patient has asthma or COPD, bring the inhalers.

14. Extra batteries for hearing aid or other medical devices.

15. Photographs of loved ones.

The medication list and Advance Directive should be placed in a large zip-lock bag. While the COVID-19 pandemic heightens our awareness of the need to be prepared, this advice is good at all times for all with underlying illnesses or who over 60 are.