Managing Treatments

A Long Hospital Stay Comes With Privacy Concerns for Cancer Patients

Communication is key during a long hospital stay. If you're concerned about privacy, make sure to work out solutions with both your roommate and hospital staff.

During your treatment, it might be necessary to be at the hospital more than you’d like. Living without the comforts of home is hard enough, but a long hospital stay also includes issues that make you uncomfortable, anxious, and downright grumpy.

For most patients, the lack of privacy is the worst part of the hospital. Vitals are taken at all hours and hallways aren’t quiet at night. Even more intolerable is the roommate situation that sometimes can’t be avoided. While your extended time away from home may not be perfect, here are some tested tips for learning to cope when you can’t be alone.

Dealing with a Roommate

While having a hospital roommate isn’t ideal, you may find that communication and grace are the keys to happiness and perhaps even friendship. First, get to know your roomie a bit. After all, you already have something in common when it comes to cancer. You have someone who truly knows what you’re going through, which can be refreshing after trying to let your well-intentioned family and friends know about your cancer battle. Remember to ease into conversation, keeping things friendly, encouraging and brief so you both can conserve your energy.

Next, communicate your needs to your roommate. If you desire a few hours of peace to take a nap, it’s OK to let your roommate know your situation and ask if he can take his visitors to the lounge or turn off the TV. In return, be prepared to do the same when your roommate wants a few quiet moments. The more open with your needs you are the better your relationship with your roommate will be. You may end up leaving the hospital with a friend instead of a frustration.

Additionally, you can buy an eye mask and earplugs to help you get some shut-eye amongst the hospital’s commotion. (They are also perfect for a care package.)

Privacy Concerns

You may be hard-pressed to find any alone time even if you don’t have a roommate. Nurses and staff are constantly shuffling in and out, which can get on your nerves quickly. To give yourself the privacy you need without compromising your care, work with your doctor or charge nurse to carve out quiet time when staff knows to only bother you in emergency situations. Asking for a few hours to be alone with your door closed is not too much to ask and the staff will happily oblige as long as you ask nicely and have reasonable demands.

Sometimes the biggest culprits for invading your privacy or quiet time are not hospital staff at all. Caring family members and friends can often descend upon your hospital room leaving you feeling like a host for hours on end. Ask a trusted friend to coordinate visits for only certain times during the day. That friend can let your support network know they can still send flowers, your favorite soup from a local deli, and well-wishing e-mails instead of inundating your hospital room with visits.

A long hospital stay is never ideal, but it’s a wonderful time for healing if you ask for what you need — especially when it comes to privacy.

Cancer treatment takes a village. Find out why you should expect the best care at UVA Cancer Center.

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Haley Burress
Haley Burress