Managing Treatments

Hospital Bag Checklist: Preparing a Loved One for an Extended Stay

Include a favorite blanket in your hospital bag to bring feelings of comfort and of home.

People living with cancer can sometimes need to be in the hospital for an extended period of time. Whether due to an illness, a surgery or as a precaution, an extended stay in the hospital can cause worry and disruption to an otherwise normal routine.

You can best prepare your loved one for their stay by using our hospital bag checklist to pack the essentials and items that make them feel more at home.

Comfortable and Practical Clothes

First things first, pack up comfortable and practical clothes for the stay. Include their favorite items, as well as items that will allow for easy port access (try button-up shirts) or other medical examinations. Having “real clothes” instead of a hospital issued gown can do wonders for morale. Pack slide resistant socks as well, as hospital floors are notoriously slick.

Medical Information

While the oncologist works to keep track of your loved one’s prescription medications, you should make them aware of other information that could be relevant. Bring along a list of any supplements your loved one has been taking, as well as any updated information to their emergency contact list, advance directives or plan of care.

Sleep Necessities

Falling, and staying, asleep can be difficult in a hospital. Your hospital bag checklist should also include supplies like an eye mask or lavender scented neck pillow to make the process a bit easier.

A Favorite Blanket

Side effects from chemotherapy and other treatments can bring on a chill, and nothing says comfort like a favorite blanket. Double-check that the hospital unit allows for items from home, and if they do, choose a quilt that feels (and smells) like home sweet home.

Work Supplies

If your loved one is planning on checking in at work during their hospital stay, be sure to pack items to make that task easier. Toss their day planner in their bag, as well as their laptop or tablet.

Stationery and Journals

Writing can be therapeutic and can help pass the time. Pack some stationery that suits your loved one’s personality, along with stamps and a list of addresses. “Old fashioned” mail is fun to send out and even more enjoyable to receive, so be sure you give the hospital information to friends far and wide so that your loved one can get some letters as well. A journal can also be a welcomed way of writing down questions for the doctor, prayers or thoughts and feelings. Include a few new pens and stickers as well.

Mood Music

Make a few playlists for your loved one’s hospital stay, including favorites for relaxing, for energy and for feeling good.

Books or Shows to Binge

A few new books, along with a tablet with downloaded seasons of new television shows, can be a lifesaver for a patient who is stuck in a hospital room without energy to go too far.

Gift Card for a Local Coffee Shop

Patients get access to the hospital cafeteria, but sometimes a smoothie from the area coffee shop sounds much better. You can purchase a gift card for those cravings when you aren’t there to run out.

Framed Photos

Bring a few framed photos along to place in the hospital room as a reminder of the people who are sending extra love.

Positive Mantras

Mantras, or positive sayings, can be a powerful reminder of love and encouragement. Consider writing a few down on post-its or small pieces of paper. Hang them up in the bathroom or by the bedside for a little pick-me-up.

A long hospital stay can be trying on the person living with cancer and on the people missing them at home. Be sure to take care of yourself during your loved one’s hospital stay as well, taking time to be away from your obligations at work and at the hospital. Your family will be reunited under one roof sooner than you may think.

While you support your loved one during their hospital stay, it's important to take care of yourself, too. UVA Cancer Center offers support services for caregivers.

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Haley Burress
Haley Burress