Hospitalization: A Parent's Guide
Parents are the core of their child’s health care team, whether caring for a child at home or helping to navigate their child’s illness and hospitalization. The staff of Akron Children’s Hospital offers a variety of ways to help guide parents through the process.
Here are some suggestions to help you and your child with the hospital experience.
BE PREPARED FOR EMERGENCIES
The best way to prevent undue difficulties is to prepare long before any hospital stay.
FEELINGS TO EXPECT
- Go over emergency procedures with your child’s doctor before the need arises. Know where the ER is located. Akron Children’s Hospital has 4 ERs - in downtown Akron, Boardman, Hudson and Montrose.
- Make sure you provide all of your child’s caregivers with detailed contact information in case you need to be reached while at work or out of town.
- Post the name and phone number of your child’s doctor by the phone along with emergency numbers, such as 9-1-1.
It’s tough to be a parent when you’re anxious or worried, but that’s a normal reaction at this time.
Here are some other normal feelings for a parent of a hospitalized child:
- Grief over the loss of control and normalcy in your child’s life and your family routine.
- Anxiety at not understanding what is going on or the meaning of medical terms.
- Bottling up emotions to focus on medical facts, only to explode with feelings later.
- Anger over feelings of helplessness, sometimes expressed as conflicts with your spouse, hospital staff or your other children.
- Blaming of spouse, doctor, hospital or even the child for the illness, as a way to protect your feelings of worth as a parent.
- Family friction involving the anger or jealousy of siblings, worry over finances, or the difficulty of finding emergency child care.
- Forgetfulness, misunderstanding and misinterpretations, since stress affects your ability to listen and understand.
- Self-blame: thinking, “I should have taken better care of my child,” or questioning your competence as a parent.
- Undue frustration over the child’s crying, disturbed sleep and changed behaviors, such as bedwetting and tantrums.
- Depression, especially after the crisis is over. Parents sometimes neglect their own health and wind up feeling mentally and physically exhausted.
Here are some practical suggestions for making the best of your child’s hospital stay:
- Ask questions to help yourself feel more comfortable. Health professionals are trained to listen to you and help you with your problems.
- Write down your questions to be more prepared.
- Akron Children’s Hospital permits liberal visitation for parents and siblings of a hospitalized child. Take advantage of this, for the good of your child and your family.
- Don’t try to be perfect. It’s OK to let your child know you’re upset. It shows you care.
- It’s important to be honest and sensitive with your child about his health care experience.
- Having a child in the hospital can be stressful and frustrating, but try not to take out your stress and frustration on hospital staff members and others. Use the art of gentle communication.
- Tell hospital staff about special home routines, as well as ethnic and religious customs and traditions that your child is used to.
- Don’t hesitate to take people up on their offers of help. You need to give yourself a break now and then.
- Talk to your friends about how you feel, or a professional counselor, if need be.
- Remember, you are your child’s most important support.
- Take breaks. Go home and decompress even if only for a few hours. Let another family member stay with your child.
You don’t have to go through this alone — Akron Children’s Hospital is ready and waiting to help you.
- Use the knowledge and support of your child’s doctor.
- Hospital staff members are trained and ready to help you and your child in many areas, including education, nutrition, child development, speech therapy, radiology and children’s responses to hospitalization. Please feel free to ask questions.
- Akron Children’s offers a pre-surgery program for children and parents to prepare a family for a surgical procedure. Call 330-543-8700 for information.
- Most patient rooms have overnight accommodations for parents. The Ronald McDonald House and the Reinberger Family Center also offer comfortable quarters for families; ask your child’s nurse or one of our social workers about it.
- Our Social Work department can direct you to a range of services to provide emotional and financial support, including self-help groups for families in similar situations.
- There are a number of parent support groups active in the hospital. Ask hospital staff about them.
- Consult your own clergy member, or talk with Akron Children’s on-staff chaplain for pastoral care and spiritual support. If you wish to speak to a chaplain, tell your child’s nurse. The hospital Chapel is located on the third floor and is open 24 hours a day. A schedule of worship services is posted at the door.
- The Child Life staff can help you understand how illness affects your child’s physical and emotional growth, and how you can provide for your child’s needs. Preparation for medical procedures is available to help you and your child understand more about medical procedures and experiences. Children who are prepared tend to cope better than those who are not prepared.
- The Family Resource Center (parent library) has a wealth of educational and medical information for parents. The library is on the third floor, just off the atrium lobby. The library staff and volunteers are ready to help.