Hospital rooms usually feel less than homey – beeping machines, fluorescent lighting and the sterile smell don’t exactly create a comforting, calming environment. But when your child is inpatient for an extended period of time, or when cancer treatments mean you’re spending the night in the hospital frequently, there are things you can do to take some control of your environment and make it feel a tiny bit more like home.
Bring your own lighting.
If allowed, bring in your own lamp, string lights or nightlight so you have an option between harsh hospital lights or darkness. Christmas lights around a window can feel festive; a reading lamp can allow you to read or get work done while your child sleeps.
Surround yourself with familiar smells.
So much of our sense of place is about smell, and the dreaded sterile-hospital-room smell couldn’t feel less like home. While you may not be allowed to bring in perfumes or sprays, there is still a lot you can do with scents to make your room more comforting. Bring in a freshly washed blanket that smells like the laundry detergent you always use. Put a few drops of a calming essential oil onto a favorite stuffed animal or pillow. Bring in your favorite shampoo and soap to use in the bath or shower as well.
Personalize the décor – and keep it consistent.
Kids and teens fighting cancer are likely to be hospitalized multiple times – in rooms with different layouts and furniture. Anything you can do to keep the room feeling consistent can be comforting – whether it’s bringing the same posters and drawings in every time and putting them up on the walls to laying out the same blanket from home on the bed. This can make any room feel a little more like home and give you and your child a greater sense of control.
Use your own sheets, towels and pillowcases.
Familiar items and textures like your own towels and sheets from home can make you and your child feel more at home. If you don’t have a lot of advanced notice before being admitted, ask a friend or family member to bring these items for you – it’s an easy way for them to help, and it will make a difference during your stay.
Bring in the people you love (or reminders of them).
Regular visits from family and friends can make a hospital feel less like a hospital – especially if some of the same friends, siblings or grandparents come regularly. If your child is too sick or immunosuppressed to allow visitors, ask family and friends to video chat regularly to decrease feelings of isolation. Let your child show friends and family any decorations around the room so they feel like it’s their space. Include photos or drawings of your family, friends, grandparents or pets to remind you of the ones you love, and to spark conversations with doctors or nurses who come into your space.