What can we do to help my (nearly) mother in law with her hospital stay?
February 26, 2016 3:04 PM   Subscribe

My partner's mother (can I call my long term partner's mother my mother in law if we're not married?) has to be in hospital for several weeks for a stem cell transplant, confined to one room. We're obviously raiding our bookshelves for her and will visit as much as possible, but what else can we do to help her along? More details below. Input from mefites who have undergone or know people who have undergone similar treatment would be much appreciated.

Between me, my partner and her other friends and family we will be making sure she does not go lonely. but she's only allowed two visitors a day and obviously people can't be there all the time.

Once she's started the treatment she isn't allowed out of her room at all for several weeks so I'm looking for stuff to cheer her up and stop her going stir crazy.

She is a lively and vivacious woman who usually enjoys being very active, going out a lot and doing multiple activities. She can however suffer from anxiety, which will no doubt be exacerbated by her situation. She does enjoy crafting and sewing, although I'm unsure if she will be feeling up to this sort of fine detail work. Information we have been given suggests that she may well be feeling lethargic and nauseous and maybe not even up to concentrating on reading books, let alone careful crafting.

She will probably be worried about and miss her cat, which of course we will all be taking turns to look after (and it's as much my partner's cat as hers, so he'll be fine, but she's a worrier so she'll still be concerned about him).

Oh, and my own experience of longish hospital stays (in the UK) suggests that the food is not great and something to help with that would be appreciated (the best thing anyone brought me in hospital was a hot greasy pizza), but because of the immune system concerns I don't believe that will be allowed.

Any advice from people who have experience of either side of similar situations would be greatly appreciated.
posted by Dext to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
One thing about hospitals is there's always noise from the hallway and they come in to wake you up during the night to check your vitals - so often it's really really hard to get any good sleep. Bringing in your own white noise machine can help some with noise from the hallway.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:14 PM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

TV/ movies. If they don't have any way of watching videos set up in the room, download some stuff onto a tablet, including some that don't require much brainpower.
posted by metasarah at 3:18 PM on February 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Two thoughts:

For her anxiety, this might be a time to use some temporary meds? Has she inquired about that?

Since she's such a people person, could she have an iPad or something and you could help her arrange to Skype/FaceTime with some other people if she feels up to it?
posted by purple_bird at 3:18 PM on February 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

Earplugs and an eye mask will be appreciated. Depending on how they keep the hospital, she may want fuzzy socks, a shawl/sweater, mittens, or a knit hat.

My relative who was in a longer-term hospitalization scenario also had a lot of trouble with keeping her skin - face and hands mainly - moisturized and otherwise comfortable.

Oh, and bring her soaps and shampoo from home. Hospital toiletries are awful.
posted by SMPA at 3:20 PM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

A small adult coloring book with a set of artist's pencils would help her anxiety--smaller is better for not getting bored with a design. I mention artist's pencils as cheap coloring pencils don't blend very well (high wax to pigment ratio) and are unsatisfying to work with.

If your MIL has a tablet and connectivity is possible, she'd probably welcome a few Skype dates with her kitty!
posted by mal de coucou at 3:38 PM on February 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

Comfortable noise-cancelling headphones, together with favorite tunes ready in my phone, were my favorite things during the three-week inpatient part of my stem-cell transplant. At my lowest point I couldn't read or watch anything, but listening to MY music (and not hearing the loud background noises) was good. Small tasty things like candy with a strong mint or citrus flavor helped when I had no appetite but needed to get the nasty chemical taste out of my mouth

I was at UCSF, and was lucky to be able to have my desktop computer set up, complete with internet connection in my room. Some days I didn't even sit up or get out of bed, but when I was able to, it saved my sanity to poke around online, answer a few emails, and even log in to an MMORPG to chat with far-off friends. Can her partner help the cat skype with her, even on a tablet or phone?

Others have good advice above. My advice to her is to speak up to the nurses and docs about any discomfort or weirdness. They really do want to know how you're doing, and may have ways to help, like meds for anxiety, nausea, or pain. Asking lots of questions about the science of what they were doing to me helped me feel less anxious.
posted by Atelerix at 3:49 PM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Really good stuff so far, thank you.

Several suggestions for tablet related things and I know she has some variety of Nexus tablet which I would imagine she will be taking with her, so I will check if it takes SD cards and if so fill something up with films/low effort TV for her. Skype could be tricky because my hospital experience told me that they are increasingly acting like hotels and charging for all sorts of access to the outside world. But I also learned that if you are nice to the doctors they may give you the staff wifi password, so I might try to wrangle that for her. I'm sure she'd love to see the kitty, although he's a bit of a wuss and will probably bolt if anyone tries to make him look at a camera.

My partner actually bought her the Jeremy Corbyn colouring book (being from a family of old Labour socialists with a sense of humour about it) for Christmas, so we can take that to her.

Some form of noise generator/noise cancellation certainly seems like a good idea based on my own hospital experience, but because she will be immunologically compromised she will be in a completely separate airlocked room, so might not be as necessary. I'll check when I first go to visit her.
posted by Dext at 3:56 PM on February 26, 2016

Even if outside noise isn't an issue, personally I find white noise type sounds to be very soothing. I use an app on my iphone that has options like rain, ocean waves, etc, but you could also get a noise machine if that's easier. I listen to a lot of podcasts, movies, etc, but if I'm trying to sleep or just dealing with sensory overload, it can be really nice to just listen to ocean waves. At the very least, she might want to drown out the noise of the hospital equipment for a little while.
posted by litera scripta manet at 4:10 PM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

If the kitty is playful and you'll be using a second tablet to Skype with cat, download a game for him. It'll get him used to interacting with the tablet. Mine now comes running over when I take it out.
posted by carmicha at 4:33 PM on February 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't know where the cat will be during this time, and this might be an awkward suggestion if the cat is staying with you, but I was recently on vacation and I LOVED having an IP cam at home that I could check on my cats with. It was so nice to see them sunning and snoozing and playing, and the camera had an app for iOS and Android that was very easy to use on a tablet or smartphone. It was just way, way nicer to see them myself and much more comforting than a second-hand report from the cat sitter.

This is the one we got, I'm sure there are cheaper options available. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Amcrest-HDSeries-Wireless-Surveillance-IPM-721S/dp/B017L1JOX4
posted by kate blank at 4:36 PM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

Photos of the cat looking placid every day? Snoozing in his favourite spots?
posted by purplesludge at 4:40 PM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

We got a dry erase wall decal like this that just presses into place in an empty section of wall or on the front a closet. Visitor would draw little doodles or cartoons or messages that she could look at to cheer her up and remind her that there is an outside world. Also get a larger set (12 or 16) of markers that gives you more color choices
posted by metahawk at 5:22 PM on February 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I would nth either/both the webcam and sending her pics and videos of her cat.
posted by rhizome at 6:50 PM on February 26, 2016

To answer the ancillary question, I called my partner's mother my mother-out-law before we got married. She loved it.
posted by kamikazegopher at 8:12 AM on February 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Just remember if you might be sick, stay away, do wash your hands before visiting, do not sneak in any food at all, bome marrow transplant patients have to be on low bacterial diets, virtually no fresh foods. Remember it is a sbort span of time relative to her lifetime, and it has to be done right. Skyping is good, computer games good, she is likely to be very ill for a portion of.this time.
posted by Oyéah at 9:17 AM on February 27, 2016

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