Healthy Living: At the Hospital

Healthy Living: At the Hospital

A visit to the hospital can be stressful for both patients and family members. It is important to listen to the advice of the nurses and doctors at the hospital, but you should also ask questions to make sure that your body is getting what it needs to recover. Daily attention to the basic needs of the human body can help prevent medical problems and help your body heal from illness and hospitalization. Below are some simple suggestions that you and your family members can follow in order to have a more positive hospital stay.

Vision and Hearing

Our senses connect us to the outside world and are essential for good communication and safe movement.  If you use glasses and/or hearing aids, bring them with you to the hospital.  Keep your glasses clean and properly adjusted.  It is safest not to walk while wearing multifocal glasses.  Bring extra batteries for your hearing aids.  If you notice trouble with your hearing, ask your nurse or doctor to check for ear wax.


The human body is mostly water. All body systems need water to function, and water is essential to removing waste. Unless instructed otherwise by a health care provider, all adults should consume about 6-8 cups of plain water each day. Many people prefer to take small amounts throughout the day rather than trying to drink an entire 8 ounce cup in one sitting. Start gradually, and try to work up to taking 3 swallows (about ½ cup) every half hour for the first 8 hours of each day. After practicing this for a few days, thirst will prompt you to drink.  Be sure to ask your nurse or doctor whether there is a reason you should not drink 6-8 cups of water each day.


Keeping the body well-hydrated also involves regular trips to the bathroom. Adults should use the toilet/commode every 2-3 hours. Don’t wait until the need is urgent. Make a mental note to check the clock and go on a regular basis. Regular elimination keeps fluid and waste moving and prompts you to get up and move, which is also good for your health.  While in the hospital, you may need assistance getting to and from the bathroom.  If you have trouble walking or your nurse or doctor has told you not to get out of bed without assistance, make sure you call for help before getting out of bed to go to the bathroom.


Regular movement helps maintain circulation, strength, balance, and stamina. Internal organs work best when the body is upright.  During the day, older adults should not sit or lay still for longer than 30 minutes at a time.  Try to at least stand up and walk around your room, unless your nurse or doctor has told you that you should stay in bed.  If you are able, you should move around even when you are laying or sitting in bed – for example, you can make circles with your ankles, clench and release your fists, and wiggle your toes.

Patients should participate in scheduled physical and occupational therapy if ordered by their doctor.  Patients are encouraged to keep moving – it is important to walk or exercise at least three times per day while in the hospital.


When you go to the hospital, bring an up-to-date list of all medications you take regularly.  Include over-the-counter medications and dietary supplements on the list.  Include as much information as you know, such as the dose and how often you take each medication.  If you have any allergies, make sure you tell your nurse or doctor what you are allergic to and what reaction you have.

Ask your nurse or doctor to explain any new medications.  Tell your nurse or doctor if you notice any problems that may be caused by medication, like nausea or confusion.  If you are given a new medication, ask your nurse or doctor what it is for and whether it can be safely combined with what you are already taking.