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May 2019

Caregiving, Quick Tips

Emergency Packing for Someone Else

It’s an emergency, and you need to pack a bag for another person. Here’s where to start.

Photo of cat wearing flag bandana, cat PJ pants, and cat socks

Know where to look for what someone actually wears or risk sending them home from the hospital in a similar ensemble.

If a friend or family member is in the hospital and needs a comfortable outfit for the trip home, don’t go through his or her drawers or closet. Start with what’s in the dryer, drying rack, or in baskets of clean laundry. These are the clothes worn most recently and are likely the most comfortable items. This approach will work in most cases, unless you’re dealing with someone who had just put away all clean clothes.

Most people have closets and drawers full of clothes they never wear. No joke, this (see photo) is what my then-husband grabbed for my mom when she was taken to Kaiser.

I was, of course, grateful for all he did for her, and I empathized with the awkwardness he must have felt going through his elderly mother-in-law’s drawers.

The funny part about this outfit wasn’t that she didn’t want to wear the patriotic cat shirt, she was more concerned that it was too early in the year. It was April. This shirt was reserved for Flag Day and 4th of July. And while she wore plenty of cat novelty socks, this specific pair had been a gift, fit a bit too tightly, and had sat in her drawer for years.

Other tips:

  • As you’re gathering items to take for someone who will be hospitalized for several days, be sure you’re not taking anything of strong sentimental value. Things DO get lost in the shuffle, unless you’re planning on being there 24/7 and actively managing all that is happening. The medical team does not have time to keep track of patients’ belongings, and that’s not their first priority.
  • If your friend or loved one will be hospitalized for more than a day, consider taking a toiletry bag of the actual items he or she uses at home. Using the preferred toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, and hairbrush will bring a small dose of normalcy to an abnormal situation. Be sure to ask the nurse if deodorant is allowed, as the use of some can interfere with medical tests (e.g. mammograms). Do not bring any strongly scented products out of courtesy to others.

Key takeaways:

  1. Pack items from the stash of clean laundry that’s not put away yet
  2. Bring the person’s toiletries, except for strongly scented items, and ask the nurse if it’s all OK to use
  3. Don’t bring anything of strong monetary or sentimental value
Gift box
Quick Tips

Think Twice Before Buying Gifts

When you see an item you think a friend or family member absolutely must have, do not buy it unless it’s an item he or she has clearly articulated is wanted or needed.

Instead, take a photo of the item and text it to the person with a simple, “This made me think of you!” The person will appreciate the thought, and he or she will also appreciate that you did not buy it, thus adding to their collection of personal belongings to manage and store.

If he or she writes back excitedly asking where you are and if the item is available, then (and only then) should you buy it. We all have way too much stuff as it is, and as funny or touching as a gift might be when it’s first opened, those feelings are often fleeting, then the gifted item is placed in a drawer, a closet, or a box.

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