You’ve been admitted to the hospital, and, needless to say, don’t feel your best. Unfortunately, while a variety of targeted treatments promise to resolve your most pressing health concerns, other issues could keep you feeling ill as long as you’re stuck in a clinical environment. Fortunately, there are several small changes you can make in your routine to improve your health while in the hospital
Hospital-acquired infections (HAI) are worrisome, of course, but they’re far from the only problems that limit your health at this vulnerable time. Holistic problems such as diet, lack of exercise, and sleep disturbances can also have a negative impact on your health.
While you are, to some extent, at the mercy of your facility, you can still make small changes that add up to big results. Take control of your own health in the hospital and give these simple suggestions a try:
There’s a lot of truth to the typical clichés about hospital food. While recent research on patient satisfaction with food service is sparse, most people would argue that hospital meals have more than earned their bad reputation.
While the taste of hospital food leaves a lot to desire, this really should not be the top concern. The bigger issue? A common reliance on simple carbohydrates, excessive sodium, and unhealthy fats.
Nutrition concerns can dramatically increase the risk of mortality for some patients, as seen in a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. In this randomized trial, those with chronic heart failure who received standard hospital food were twice as likely to die as those with personalized meal plans.
The findings from this study are clear: when you can eat meals carefully selected based on your current medical issues, take full advantage of that option. Thankfully, even hospital menus that seem horribly unhealthy typically contain at least a few acceptable options.
If you need to eat from a standard hospital menu, aim for fresh fruits and vegetables whenever possible. These can be accompanied by meat, lentils, or whole-grain products. Don’t be afraid to ask for substitutions: think extra veggies instead of a dinner roll. Ditch the dessert and soda, opting for fresh fruit and water (or tea) instead.
Uncomfortable beds and constant commotion from staff members make it difficult to sleep soundly, even if you’re lucky enough to get a room to yourself. Now, add pain from treatments, stress about your health condition, and disruptions from neighbors or visitors — it’s easy to see why insomnia is such a common problem in hospitals.
While much of your sleep routine is out of your control, you can still instate a few healthy practices to help you get the rest you so desperately need. First, ditch the devices several hours before bed. This can be challenging when TVs and smartphones are your only source of entertainment, but books and magazines are far preferable at night.
Surround yourself with comfort objects such as favorite pillows or pictures. White noise can help you block out the disruptive sounds of the hospital environment. Smells can be powerful for some people, so use lavender or other comforting scents to set the stage for a restful night’s sleep.
If anxiety keeps you tossing and turning, try meditation: allow those worrisome thoughts to enter your headspace, accept that they exist, and let them float away. Keep a journal and pen by your bedside so you can write about your stressors when meditation fails to do the trick.
Physical activity doesn’t stop being important when you spend time in the hospital. The less you use your body, the more likely you are to suffer everything from bedsores to long-term mobility issues.
The prospect of exercising may seem dreadful when you’re already suffering physical discomfort, but if you can move even a little, you may find that you feel more relaxed and at ease. If nothing else, moving will give you some of those feel-good endorphins.
Try to plan to take a walk at least once every few hours if you are able. Hospital staff can help you get started if you need assistance. Some hospitals even allow you to spend time outside in courtyards or other peaceful environments, where the wonders of fresh air can add to the benefits of physical activity
Thankfully, some degree of movement is possible even when you’re confined to your bed or wheelchair. Find videos of chair yoga routines, which are valuable for both physical and mental health. Simple exercises such as shoulder shrugs or arm rotations will get the blood flowing — and you can easily perform them whenever you have a few minutes to spare.
Even as COVID eases and we get back to normal life, another alarming pandemic looms large: loneliness. Research suggests that this can be as damaging to our health as smoking or obesity. Unfortunately, even if you’re lucky enough to receive care from friendly nurses and physicians, the hospital can be a lonely place.
Periodic visits with loved ones can make a world of difference. Research from the Journal of the American Heart Association shows that heart disease patients who feel socially isolated face worse outcomes than their connected counterparts.
If you’re interested in spending time with others but worry that you’re not strong enough just yet, start small; a few minutes with a spouse or adult child may be all you can handle at first. Eventually, however, you may enjoy spending time with other visitors. If friends and family members are unable to visit in person, try to arrange for phone calls, or better yet, video chats. Any level of interaction can make a difference for your mental health while in the hospital.
If you lack strong social connections outside the hospital, ask staff members whether any support groups or onsite group activities are available. Online forums may be less effective than in-person interactions and over-the-phone conversations, but they can still make you feel less alone.
The practices outlined above can help you feel better in the hospital, but what if your physical or mental suffering is caused by a staff member’s negligence? Compensation may be within reach if you work with a trusted D.C. medical malpractice lawyer. Regan Zambri Long PLLC can help. Contact us today to get started with a case consultation.Tagged Hospital-Acquired Infections, Hospitalization, Medical Malpractice, Nutrition, patient advocacy