recovering from hospitalization?
November 17, 2014 11:04 AM   Subscribe

It looks like I'll be discharged from my week-long stay in the hospital tomorrow. (Fingers crossed, knock on wood.) I've been treated for double pneumonia, chronic migraine, trigeminal neuralgia breakthrough pain, and severe constipation. This is the longest I've ever been hospitalized. I'm weak as a day old kitten. Still having pain from the migraine and TN. Still having difficulty pooping. Still short of breath. But they say I'm better enough to go home. Give me your best hacks, skills, and advice for transitioning home and having an easy recovery.

I'm mostly self-employed, and the parts where I'm not, my employers are very flexible and easy going when it comes to scheduling, so I'm not worried too much about going back to work. My biggest concerns are along the lines of not pushing myself too hard, too fast, keeping track of new meds, new doctor appointments, and new treatments, getting healthy meals that won't break the bank since I haven't worked in a week, and that are easy to put together since I'm so weak and exhausted, etc.?

I will have a friend staying with me for at least a day once I'm home. What all do I ask him to take care of? What would be asking too much? How do I lean on him without leaning to much? How long do I ask him to stay?

I'm not very good at being sick. I have plenty of practice at dealing with chronic illnesses, or conditions, or what have you. But like this completely throw me for a loop. Please help me be a good recovering person!
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Walk. No equipment or computers needed. First, walk slowly around the room, testing yourself, then around the house, and eventually around the block. Rest whenever you feel like it. You have a great attitude! Get well soon!
posted by JimN2TAW at 11:14 AM on November 17, 2014

You can lean on anyone as hard as you like for a day or two. That's nothing. That's easy.

So at the very least, ask your friend to go grocery shopping and to do a load of laundry or two. In terms of cheap meals, plan to cook nothing for five days or so. Soup comes in infinite, delightful variety. Sandwiches are easy. Get a bag of salad if you want to heap that on top. I mean, you probably don't want to pile on the Big Macs but you're not going to enhance your healing by peeling your own carrots for carrot soup, you know?

In terms of activities, do nothing. Sleep as much as you need to. Don't push yourself, and don't start with the "I should be able to do more now!" thing for at least five days.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:20 AM on November 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

Oh and do you have a smartphone? There are loads of apps for meds and appointment management and scheduling.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:21 AM on November 17, 2014

Set up some folders and a notebook to help keep track of the $30,000+ worth of medical bills and insurance statements you will be receiving in the coming weeks. Jot down dates, names, and times when you call billing offices and the insurance company (hoping you have insurance!).
posted by thatguyjeff at 11:25 AM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Be sure to eat a lot of fruits (not bananas, though), vegetables, and whole grains. Drink plenty of liquids.

Can you have a friend- maybe various different friends- drop in every day for the first week to help with whatever you need for an hour? Don't be afraid to reach out and ask people for help.

Do any of your windows get sun during the day? Do a little indoor sunbathing every day if you can.

I hope you feel better soon.
posted by mareli at 11:27 AM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think it's appropriate to ask your friend to do some grocery shopping, laundry, picking up presecriptions, and simple household set-up to make things easier for you. (For example, if there are some heavier items that could be moved around to make the environment easier for you (i.e. a little table right by the couch), ask for that.)

Meals-wise, I would honestly go for prepared meals until you are feeling better. I've been hospitalized for just pneumonia (none of the other stuff at the same time), and even with just that I was in absolutely no shape to be doing more than heating things up in the microwave. If you know your friend enjoys cooking/is a good cook, you could ask him to make a few of his go-to meals for you and stash them in the fridge or freezer...this is a bigger ask for some people than for others. I would be happy to do this for a friend, but that's because I am an experienced/efficient cook and enjoy it...for many "non-cooks" out there, I think this would be too much to ask (and you might not really enjoy the results). So, you'll need to judge this for yourself based on how well you know your friend. If he's not up for cooking, I would see if he could go to a Trader Joe's to pick you up a variety of options. In my experience, it has a great balance of being affordable, tasty, and a good selection. Some of my favorite low- or no-effort options:

--TJ brand Nutri-grain/breakfast bars
--Bags of granola + yogurt (especially good if you're on antibiotics)
--Kefir (drinkable yogurt, also great if you're on antibiotics)
--Various types of crisps/chips + healthy dips
--Prepared salads
--Hardboiled eggs
--Steam-in-bag veggies
--Pre-cut fruit
--Frozen sesame chicken
--Frozen tamales
--Bread + peanut butter + jam or honey (or deli meats + cheese + lettuce mix)
--Pre-made meatballs
--Bags of dried fruit and/or nuts to munch on (some of these have very good prices, you just have to check the tags)

Also, I agree with the above poster who said to give your friend a list of people to call, and try to get someone to stop by every day or two, if for nothing else than just some social interaction. It is easy to feel gross and not want to see anyone when you're sick, but can also be incredibly isolating and make things much worse mentally. If someone is checking up on you (doesn't have to be the same person, it could rotate among friends/acquaintances!), they can make sure you're doing ok, as well as take care of small tasks that are difficult for you (for example, you might be too weak to carry out the trash, might need someone to pick up a medication, etc.)

Good luck! Hope you are feeling better soon.
posted by rainbowbrite at 11:35 AM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Rest as much as possible. Seriously pneumonia is terrible and you are going to be weaker than you feel especially with some of the medications they usually use to treat for that. Gather as many people who can help add long as possible but at least a week. Last time I was hospitalized a good friend was like you need 1 day to recover for every day in the hospital. I found that to be true.
posted by AlexiaSky at 11:39 AM on November 17, 2014

Sleep if your body demands it, sleep if your mind demands it, drink so much water, and slowly incorporate fresh fruits and veggies into your diet asap. I am glad you're being discharged! I hear you on the weak feeling though. Hope your recovery is good and speedy!
posted by Hermione Granger at 12:21 PM on November 17, 2014

Keep all your meds in one place with a notebook to track when you took your last dose of whatever and set up alarms in your phone if you have meds that you're supposed to be taking on a schedule. Similarly try to track your fluid intake (fill a nalgene or pitcher with water and make a goal of getting though however many a day).

If you're on opioids like Percocet, also take an over the counter stool softener like Colace. Also consider drinking prune juice. I find lentil soup to be pretty delicious, easy and cheap to make. I would ask your friend to do a grocery run if you're not already stocked up on pantry needs.

Also if you feel light headed, dizzy or start getting tunnel vision while you're walking around, sit down immediately so that you don't fall if you're passing out. Good luck with recovery!
posted by tangaroo at 12:53 PM on November 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

I came in here to say exactly what tangaroo said. You *will* forget that you've taken pain meds in particular unless you write down that you've done so and when. And yes please please take Colace every time you take a pain med. All prescription pain medication causes constipation, and constipation, as I'm sure you know from experience now, is sometimes worse than the pain being treated.
posted by janey47 at 1:25 PM on November 17, 2014

I used to post medication schedules to the front of the fridge.

Get out of bed as much as possible and, if you are there a lot, try to wash the bedding more.

I used to scramble an egg and toss in boiling water and stir and then make cup-a-soup with it when I was too sick to really cook. And/or add instant brown rice and a little extra salt to cup-a-soup, then eat with really hardy crackers.
posted by Michele in California at 2:28 PM on November 17, 2014

My husband had pneumonia earlier this fall and I think we both were caught off guard by how weak and tired he was. I've never seen him sleep like he did. For weeks. He missed nearly a month of work, and when we tell people he's getting over pneumonia if they've had it they tell us it took months to recover. It's been nearly a month since he went back to work and he's still tired out quickly. So let yourself rest as much as possible. I would make sure your friend stocks up on lots of liquids, juices, prepackaged soups, etc. my husband craved frozen yogurt, which he never eats.

I had to practically drag my husband to the urgent care place and he told me later that it wasn't b/c he didn't feel sick, but that he was just out of it he couldn't do anything or make a decision. Like he would have just laid there forever. He never had obvious trouble breathing. Have your friend set up some sort of schedule of people or him checking in with you everyday to make sure you are getting better, as my husbands thinks he might just 'faded away' w/out intervention. Hope you are on the mend soon.
posted by snowymorninblues at 2:59 PM on November 17, 2014

You will find out about pushing yourself too hard just by doing chores at home. As you get stronger you can start by preparing a meal, loading the dishwasher, picking up laundry, unloading groceries, etc. You will get feedback as to how much is too much, use this knowledge before planning outings in the outside world.

You keep track of doctors and appointments the same way as you always keep track of things. Be religious about adding appointments to calendars, adding doctors to contacts, adding notes to events. Use whatever note tracking system you have (I email things to myself) to keep track of treatments, etc. It is helpful to have a pill organizer and if you are really fancy, get a small journal and write down symptoms, doses, poops, etc every day. I was just fine leaning on my regular old calendar, contact list, and email system.

Try not to get your friend to do things you can arrange for yourself. Have everything under the sun delivered, hire cleaners, find a laundry service, use taxis, etc. Have your friend pick up items that can't be delivered, move heavy things, pick you up from procedures that require adult supervision, and help set up your "sick" stations with easy to reach TV, computer, etc. It is more useful having people call in to see you daily than to have one stay with you on call at all times. Having your friend arrange call with other friends is great.

You are ambulatory so you should be fine on your own with lots of rest, fluids, and prepared foods. Start taking Metamucil and possibly eat real prunes along with taking Colace. Drink way more water than you previously thought possible. Be well
posted by crazycanuck at 4:45 PM on November 17, 2014

I cared for myself after coming home from my hysterectomy due to a death in the family.

I slept a lot.

Ask your friend to go to the store and lay in a supply of:

Juicy fruit, oranges, apple slices (you won't want to fiddle with an actual apple), melons, grapes, etc.
Red Jello with fruit cocktail in it
Chicken Noodle soup
Stouffers Mac and Cheese
Ginger Ale
The kind of Gatorade you like (GET THIS!)
Rainbow sherbet

Call friends to come around and drop things off for you and get your mail. I did this and it was really helpful. I liked seeing people and some of them brought me hamburgers and milkshakes (of which I consumed about 1/8th of a serving.)

Sleep some more.

Get well soon!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:46 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you are taking opioid pain meds you need a stimulant laxative, I like my patients to use senna s. MOM is good short term as is calcium citrate. Bulking agents will not address the causes of opiate induced constipation.
posted by yodelingisfun at 5:15 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Have your friend stock your bedroom with lots of bottled water and healthy shelf-stable snacks within arm's reach of the bed so you can still eat and hydrate even when you're not feeling well enough to get up. Otherwise, you'll just get weaker and weaker.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:35 PM on November 17, 2014

Make sure you know when and with whom to schedule your follow up appointments before you leave the hospital. Part of good transitional care is timely follow up visits with outpatient providers. Particularly with pneumonia you want to have someone listen to your lungs within the first week or two post discharge to be sure the pneumonia is clearing. A follow up chest x-Ray will be needed a bit farther down the line.

Will you be able to drive yourself to appointments? If not, recruit help from friends as soon as you know dates/times. Ask your friend staying with you to pick up things from the drugstore, take care of laundry, and try to get you set up with several days' worth of meals. You will find ordinary household tasks exhausting for a while. Your first journey out to the doctor will be a major event.

You may have a cough and some degree of shortness of breath for a few weeks to come. If you've been given albuterol or any other inhaled medication to help you breathe easier while in the hospital, be sure you receive a prescription for this so you can use it at home too. Once you're home, if you spike a fever, or if your cough worsens or if your find it increasingly difficult to breathe, call your regular primary care provider ASAP.

Best wishes for a speedy recovery!
posted by little mouth at 6:45 PM on November 17, 2014

I'm at home recovering now. Lots of sleep, water, decent food, and patience are working for me.
posted by harrietthespy at 8:19 PM on November 17, 2014

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