One of the worst realisations when you are in the hospital waiting for your child to get better is that it can be boring. I mean extremely boring. Sometimes your stay can become very long winded as doctors and health professionals try to determine the best course of action for your child or loved one. It is also an anxious time for parents, especially those who are new to the game.
A hospital admission is a time when you learn to WAIT! You wait for a diagnosis. You wait for a treatment plan but that may not be the end. You also have to wait for your child or loved one to respond to the treatment. For some parents, their children respond fairly quickly and in no time, they find themselves back home. However this is not always the same for everyone. Some children do not respond as expected. Other children contract infections while in the hospital. But there can be more twists for some families with their children getting more answers in the name of more diagnoses being added to already existing ones. These too may require further investigation(s) and treatment(s).
So sometimes without warning, a short hospital stay can become suddenly longer than expected. This translates into boredom as the time spent can feel unbearably endless. It then becomes imperative as parents that we find ways to control boredom. Boredom can be overwhelming and depressing if left unchecked.
The good news is that today we will be looking together at ways to keep ourselves distracted. These distractions and activities will pass the time and help divert your attention. They will help you pass the time and cheer you up in no time!
Write down your thoughts – Hospital stays can be very lonely. So many things occupy your mind from important stuff to flimsy stuff. Sometimes a niggling thought about remembering to do the laundry, tidying up or picking up the milk on your way home can leave you feeling exhausted. You may find yourself constantly trying to hold on to the thought to avoid forgetting. You can get a piece of paper to write down our thoughts. It doesn’t even have to be written in a fancy book as long as you get it out. This blog you are reading was written down to pass the time. Writing your thoughts not only passes the time but also creates relief. You can have a nice rant without bothering anyone. You may even be able to sort out your feelings, plan your day, write a story and so on. You will never know the rewards of writing until you try because the possibilities are endless. Here is a link for some more ideas.
Visit the play room – Yes, I know this might sound funny but the playroom is actually for everyone- not just kids. If you are in a hospital that has a playroom, you can pick things to pass the time with. There is also the opportunity to take items back to the ward if you are feeling a bit awkward about sitting in the playroom. Colouring books and painting kits- crayons, markers, water colour and so on are all useful distracters. While they may seem childish at first glance, the strokes and patterns you make can create a good aesthetic distraction for your mind. The repetitive action of colouring in can also feel very relaxing. Look at it this way- It will allow you think about something other than your sick child even for as little as 10 minutes. Don’t shake this idea off before trying it out. There’s nothing wrong with passing the time rediscovering the Picasso that lies within you.
Take some time out – Just because you are in the hospital looking after your child, does not mean you do not deserve a break. Even 5 minutes can be enough if that’s the time you have got to spare. A break away from all the pressure of your child’s health condition can help put you in the right frame of mind to face the on-going challenges. For people in a well-equipped hospital (like Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in the UK), you can leave the child for a few minutes, hours or days and be sure the child is in the best hands. Go for a walk or a jog if you feel strong enough. Just try to do it as regularly as you can. You will see the difference it makes to your mood. Remember that fresh air is good for your wellbeing.
Read a book – With the long winded stay, a book may be just what you need to take your mind off the immediate realities. Initially, you may find it difficult to focus. That is quite normal really. So don’t give up on that book just yet. If you give yourself time to adjust, you may find it to be a nice way to escape into another world. There is no pressure you can read anything you fancy too. Newspapers, magazines, novels (With thousands of genres to choose from ) and even more blogs ( like this one you are reading for which I am thankful). If you feel there are none of these options where you live, perhaps you can check online. There is no escaping this option except you genuinely don’t fancy reading.
Find something to watch – This is another fun thing you can do while you wait. The good news is that if you have got internet access there are tons of films and websites you can choose from. Youtube and Netflix are my most popular go to sites for video fun. You can watch Vlogs and all sorts online. The time will just start to fly by for you and even your child/loved one.
Listen to music – If you are not doing this already, then its time you tried this one out. Music can be a relaxing tool. There is a big library of songs online ( as most people now tend to use phones to access music). For some old school girls like me, we have our good old “disc man”, music players and so on for company. You can listen to free music on Youtube, Spotify etc. So the good news is that it’s just a click away.
Play games – If you have company or not, you can pass the time with a game. Some board games like scrabble, ludo, puzzles, chess are nice distractions. For others who do not like board games, games exist online as well– candy crush, maze games etc. What’s more, you can even download your favourite board games straight into your phone to start enjoying today! There are other games too like crosswords, Sudoku, word search and so on that you can pass the time with.
Connect with other parents – In some hospitals, there are formal avenues to meet other parents. Support groups may meet at different times to create an avenue for parents to relax and share ideas and experiences. Here at GOSH London, we have the coffee morning Tuesdays at St Christopher’s chapel. Other support groups exist and you can find out about this through the nurses on your ward.
Parents can also join support groups online for instance through Facebook. They create an opportunity to be in contact with other families who may be going through similar illnesses with their children or loved ones. LSTS group ( supports children with tracheal challenges), Hypo insulinism groups and lots more. They are not able to provide clinical support. Contact a family can also link you with other parents.
Go out for the day – For those who stay in the hospital for the long haul, this will be a good option to consider for you and even your child or loved one. If your child is stable, the hospital can allow you take them with you for a few hours or even the whole day. It may be spent going home, to the movies, sight-seeing etc. You can find fun places to visit. If you are around GOSH there are tons of distractions you can enjoy. You can check online or ask your nurse for the leaflet on sights around GOSH. Trips to the cinema, museums and parks are minutes away. My personal favourite is a walk in Russell gardens. For those who live outside of London, it is worth asking the hospital staff for information about what is available around you.
I hope you find this useful. Please share with other parents. Drop us a line too if you have any other ideas about more things to do while in the hospital with your child.
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