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Last Updated on 7 October 2019

Guest Post: How to Help a Child in Hospital

Whether you have private hospital cover or not, there may be a time when you need to prepare your child for a hospital admission. This guest post from Rebecca at The Lighter Side of Parenting offers some great practical tips for how to go about this. 

Whether it’s a life threatening emergency or a simple procedure, supporting a child in hospital can be a stressful experience for all involved.

Here are a few ways you can help the little ones in your life through their hospital stay.

Helping your own child

Tell the truth

Trust is crucial. And telling kids what’s coming means you can prepare together. Of course, telling the ‘truth’ to a child doesn’t mean giving them every clinical detail. You know your child best. Try to translate what’s happening in words they can understand.

When my four year old needed an emergency MRI under a general anaesthetic, I told him:

  • the doctors were going to give him special medicine that would put him to sleep for a couple of hours
  • they would take photos of his brain while he was asleep
  • It wouldn’t hurt
  • I would be there when he woke up and when he went to sleep.

I told him this a couple of hours before the procedure and reminded him again before staff came to get us.

Bring comforts from home

iPads, DVDs, teddies, books, favourite pens and colouring books can all make your little one more comfortable by creating a familiar environment. Take note of how much storage space you’ll have (probably not much) before lugging a whole suitcase in though!

Ask questions; write down the answers

Medical staff will try to give you plenty of information about what’s happening. If you don’t understand, ask questions until you do. If you’re worried about remembering it all, write it down.

Don’t expect good behaviour

Your child is scared, sick and possibly in pain. Don’t be embarrassed if your child throws the mother of all tantrums or refuses to cooperate with anyone. This is pretty normal. The doctors and nurses understand this.

My son refused to eat any of the hospital food so we brought other food into him. A nurse asked if he was eating normally. I said he refused to eat anything which came on a hospital tray almost on principle. She shrugged and said most of the kids do the same.

Remember to ask the doctors about any dietary restrictions before giving your child food from home.

Give yourself a break

It’s stressful enough being in hospital yourself but when you have to stay calm for your family and your child as well, it can really take its toll. If someone visits and your child is happy to stay with them, go and get a cup of tea. By yourself.

Helping someone else’s child

There are dozens of ways you can help a friend or family member’s child through their hospital stay and many of them happen away from the hospital.

At the hospital

  • Visit – your sunny presence can make a big difference to the long days. Check with the parents first to make sure it’s ok to come and keep your visit short.
  • Don’t expect the child to be awake, cooperative or on their best behaviour. Same goes for the parents. Remember it’s not a normal social visit.
  • Bring a gift for the child – consider an activity such as a puzzle or colouring book, depending on their illness.
  • Bring a gift for the parent – magazines, snack food, even a scented soap if they’re staying overnight in hospital.
  • Give the gift of time – if you know the child well and they’re comfortable with you, send mum or dad out to the hospital cafeteria for a short break. If they don’t want to, don’t push.

Around the house

Anything you’d usually do in your own house probably needs to be done at the sick child’s house. If you want to give practical help consider:

  • cooking a meal
  • cleaning the house
  • mowing the lawns
  • washing and ironing clothes
  • picking up/dropping off any siblings from school/daycare/kinder
  • minding any siblings while mum and dad go to the hospital.

Don’t be offended if you’re not showered with thanks and gratitude immediately. Friends and family may be in shock, or simply stressed and not responding as they usually would. Their focus will be on their sick child.

I know our own experience of our son being in hospital was made easier by the wonderful help we had from family and friends both in the hospital and at home. It allowed us to focus on our sick little boy without worrying about the day to day chores.

Rebecca Stephens is a Melbourne mum and writer. You can find her funny stories about raising little people at Seeing the Lighter Side of Parenting and fascinating stories about our parenting past at History of Parenting.

Frequently Asked Questions About Health Insurance

There are three types of health insurance in Australia. They are:

  • Hospital Cover
  • Extras Cover (also known as general or ancillary cover)
  • Ambulance Cover

Hospital cover can ensure any unexpected surgeries, treatments or hospital stays you may require will be covered. With appropriate cover you will have the flexibility to choose your own doctor and the option of receiving treatment in a private hospital.  Most hospital covers allow you to stay in a private room. One other perk is skipping the public hospital systems’ waiting list, which can be lengthy for non emergency treatment.

Extras cover pays benefits for a a range of services, often including treatments and procedures related to the fullowing:

  • Dental/oral health
  • Glasses and contact lenses
  • Podiatry
  • Physiotherapy
  • Psychulogy
  • Acupuncture
  • Remedial massage
  • Chiropractic
  • Hearing aids
  • Travel vaccinations

Ambulance cover, as the name suggests, will cover you should you require emergency ambulance transport. In an emergency, there is enough to worry about. Having the expenses covered for provides security and peace of mind. Many hospital covers include emergency ambulance transport If yours doesn’t, you will need to shop for this separately.

Life is unpredictable. You never know when you might need cover. No matter what life stage you’re in, there’s a policy out there for everyone. You can select as much or as little cover as you want, depending on your health needs and requirements. It’s a small price to pay for the peace of mind health cover provides.

There is no one answer here. Costs vary across providers and policy types. Just because a policy is cheap, that does not mean it is ‘value for money’ and vise versa. Make sure you check what’s included and excluded in a policy before signing up, as you want to purchase a policy that best fits your specific needs.

Premium: A premium is the price you pay for your insurance policy (it may be paid annually or on an ongoing basis).

Policy: An insurance plan. In other words, it is the type of insurance you choose to select.

Policy Holder: The owner, or ‘holder’ of a policy.

Claim: In the event that you require treatment for a service covered by your policy, you can lodge a claim for reimbursement of all or part of the cost of that treatment.. These days, most claims are submitted electronically by the health care provider (dentist, physio etc)

Lifetime Health Cover: Lifetime Health Cover was put in place to encourage young Australians to seek out and maintain ownership of private health insurance early in their lives. If you do not take out a policy before you turn 31, extra charges will be applied should you take out a policy at a later time.

This means you will pay a 2% loading on top of your premium for every year that passes after you turn 30. For example, if you take out a policy for the first time at age 32, you will be charged 4% of your premium as an extra, then at age 40, 20% and so on, up to a maximum loading of 70%.

The loading is payable for 10 consecutive years of cover - after which it is removed and you premiums will be reduced.

Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS): Medicare offers assistance for Australians with many of their their prescribed medication costs through the PBS. This assistance is in the form of subsidies towards the cost of many medications. You can check if your prescribed medication is on the list of subsidised items here.

Medicare Levy Surcharge: The Medicare Levy Surcharge is an additional charge (tax) applied to single Australian taxpayers who earn over the income threshold of $90,000 per year, or families/couples who earn over $180,000 per year. This surcharge is only applied to those who choose not to have a private health insurance policy.

The surcharge is designed to reduce pressure on the public health system by encouraging those with higher incomes to invest in private health cover.

Private Health Insurance Rebate: The government’s Private Health Insurance rebate lowers premiums for most Australians with private health insurance Older Australians may enjoy an even higher rebate. Our calculator can help you estimate the Government health insurance rebate you may receive.

Disclaimer: The above information is correct and current at the time of publication

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