Caregiver Checklist for Holiday Hospital Stays

Hospitals can be desolate places during holidays. This article provides a checklist of items for caregivers to consider.

Independence Day is next week. While not one of the major holidays like Christmas, New Year’s or Easter, it can still be…quiet…around the hallways of a hospital or extended care facility.

Where I live in the South, this is prime vacation season. The airports are busy, the commute is light, and the weather is hot! If you have the ability to do a little pre-planning before next week, here are some things to consider for your caregiving routine before the long weekend:

  • Doctor’s schedule. Will your doctor or specialist be working during the holiday or long weekend? If not, who will be covering in his or her absence? Make note of those changes.
  • Your schedule. If you are going to be out-of-town for the holiday or long weekend, do you have someone to visit and check on your loved one a few times while you are gone? When will you go over the routine, condition, doctors, special care concerns, etc. with your substitute caregiver?
  • Your contact information. Whether you are in-town or out-of-town, you may want to check in with the nursing staff at the hospital or the extended care executive director or medical director on duty during a holiday weekend. Even if you are a “regular” among the nursing staff, there may be different personnel covering a holiday weekend. It never hurts to introduce yourself or ensure that everyone has your contact information readily available if you are needed. Yes, I know it’s in the admissions records, but a gentle reminder may ease your concerns.
  • Hotel arrangements. If you live out-of-town and stay in a hotel, motel, Airbnb, etc. while your loved one is in the hospital, confirm your reservation – or make a reservation – for the holiday weekend.
  • Extra activities. Depending on your loved one’s interests, concentration and energy levels, this might be the perfect time time to bring a new book, magazine, movie or activity they can do in the hospital room. The same goes for you. You may not be able to go to the shore this weekend, but you can download the latest summer beach read that doesn’t require a lot of attention on your part or scroll through Instagram to see what people are wearing to the beach.
  • Visits/Calls/Video Chats. If your loved one is up for visits or phone calls, ask a good friend or family member to call or stop by. If you or your loved one has a phone or tablet with video-chatting capabilities, this could be a nice alternative, too. While you may be concerned about your loved one seeing others out enjoying their lives when your loved one cannot, you might be surprised at the mood booster such a “visit” can be.
  • Healthy Snacks. The hospital shops, cafeteria, etc. may be open as usual, or they may also have reduced hours. If that is the case (or if you just want to do something different or special), you can pack a lunch bag with special treats: a sandwich, string cheese, yogurt, fruit, nuts, chocolates or anything else that is easy to pack for the day.
  • Fireworks or Holiday Events at the Hospital. One year, my mother’s room was on the side of the hospital where we could actually watch the downtown Dallas fireworks. Ask around to see if there are fireworks displays close to the hospital that patients can watch. There might also be a parade on a nearby street or something going on in the hospital you and your loved one can attend (e.g., a patriotic concert by a high school choir or a community band).

For those of you who are not able to plan as far in advance, this can simply be an opportunity to be aware of the upcoming holiday and to be thinking of backup plans – especially if you, or people you rely on to relieve you for your loved one’s care, will be out of town for the long weekend.


I saw this quote for Independence Day and thought it perfectly depicted the spirit of a caregiver as well. Happy Birthday, America!

“America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination, and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.”

–Harry S. Truman

A Free Resource for Caregivers

Employer Assistance Programs may have many free resources for caregivers who are working.

If you are working for a medium- to large-size employer, you probably have access to an Employer Assistance Plan (EAP). If so, it is worth checking out. An EAP is like having your own social worker – and usually at no cost to you.

If you are not familiar with this benefit, an EAP is part of an employer’s behavioral health program and is ordinarily delivered by independent resources, most likely the employer’s insurance provider. The service is commonly free of charge to employees and is confidential.

Many plans offer a variety of assistance that could be helpful to you as a caregiver. This could include a dial-in telephone number for referrals as well as an website filled with information for caregivers, such as assessments, checklists and webinars. Some examples of referrals are:

  • Elder care living arrangements. An EAP can help you with, or refer you to, an agency that can provide a list of living facilities for your loved one. You provide them with information such as location, level of independence/assistance needed, anticipated move-in date, etc., and the agency creates a list of possibilities. Some will make appointments for you to visit the facilities so that an agent is waiting for you when you arrive.
  • Home health providers. Although you may already have referrals from doctors or hospitals, if your loved one lives in an area where the hospital or doctor does not practice, this referral service might be helpful.
  • Counseling. Most EAP programs provide two or three free counseling sessions with a licensed therapist or social worker. That may be enough time for you and the provider to determine if you would like to continue with the counseling or if you just needed a few sessions. The provider can refer you to a licensed practitioner for additional sessions.
  • Legal assistance. Caregivers can face a barrage of legal questions from living wills to property deeds. This service may be able to answer basic questions for you or refer you for more involved situations.

Other tools available to you if the EAP has a website include:

  • Assessments. How are you coping with stress? Are you depressed? Is your loved one’s home safe?
  • Webinars. Caregivers do not always have the ability to attend classes for self-improvement, information or enjoyment. See if your EAP offers webinars that you can watch at a specific time or location that is convenient for you.
  • Discounts. You may be eligible for discounts on some of the services offered outside of the EAP (e.g., tax assistance, home cleaning, etc.). Don’t overlook these.

Every employer’s plan is different, but it is worth seeing what is available to you as an employee to make your caregiving responsibilities easier while you are working.

Have you used your employer’s EAP to help with caregiving?

Welcome to the You Don’t Have to Join the Circus Blog!

You Don’t Have to Join the Circus is a weekly lifestyle blog for the modern caregiver. Today’s post gives some of the background for creating the blog and what is to come.

Welcome to the You Don’t Have to Join the Circus blog! I’m Lisa Adams, and I have developed this blog to help caregivers find ideas, encouragement and inspiration – in one convenient location!

According to Pew Research, there are currently as many as 40 million caregivers in the United States, and there are countless resources on the Internet with information for caregivers to sift through – if you have the time. This blog will curate the best-of-the-best information out there, as well as to provide new material, and put it in one location for you to access at your convenience.

Beyond that, the blog is meant to be inspirational and uplifting (or as uplifting as some of the topics can be without being offensive or disrespectful). The colors are bright. The layout is clean and modern, and the posts will be relatively brief and to-the-point.


During the latter part of my mother’s illness, a family member sent me an article that appeared in Guidepost, written by a celebrity who was caring for her parents. In the article, she said (I’m paraphrasing), “This illness didn’t come with a playbook or instructions. Once we got something figured out, things would change, and we had to start all over again.” That was my experience, too. The author was raw and authentic and inspirational. How unbelievable that one simple article gave me so much comfort and hope.

I don’t tend to live vicariously through celebrities, but, as I thought at the time, if she can make it, I can, too. What I really needed was to know that someone else out there was walking the same path as me. Perhaps you can find inspiration and encouragement from this blog to fuel your journey as I did from that article. You are not alone.

The first post appears this week.

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

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