Momma Bear’s Guide to Creating

A To-go bag

Good for Emergency Rooms and Hospital Stays!

You CAN Do This. And I’m Here to Help

A great quote!

“There’s no harm in hoping for the best as long as you’re prepared for the worst.”
― Stephen King, Different Seasons

Who Am I?

I am a Momma Bear, a veteran of many trips to the emergency room, of planned and unplanned stays in the hospital that might last a day or might last a month. Organization and lists have never come natural for me, but I always say that my oldest son has been slowly remaking me into the most list-driven, detail-oriented, domesticated medical Mom you ever saw!

Why I Created This

Too many times, I would realize when we got settled at in the hospital, which is two hours from home, that I forgot some critical item and would either have to go back and get it or talk my husband into meeting halfway. Both of these were not good options because then our son would be alone in the hospital with no one there to advocate him, or talk to the doctors about his plan of care.

My first solution was to create a to-do list of everything we needed to take but, if you are in crisis, a list doesn’t help much. I realized what I really needed to create was an emergency to-go bag.  I could fill a backpack with all the items I would need to get us through at least 3 days in the hospital; clothes, food and medications.

Thus, Momma Bear’s Emergency Room/Hospital Overnight Bag list was created!  I now have a backpack that is ready to go at the drop of a hat.  I will go through it every couple of months to update my clothing choices depending upon the season and make sure my snacks are fresh.

Hint: Leggings are a great choice when planning your wardrobe – sorry, guys!  I have used them as pants, as long johns and as pajama.  They are lightweight and hardly take up any room.  I usually pair up 1 pair of leggings to 2 shirts and, voila!  half my packing is done!

I have created 3 packing lists; one for a parent, one for a child and one for an adult.  You can always add more to these lists to customize them for what works for you and your family but these will give you a great starting point.

5 Tips for Preparing for a hospital stay

  1. Pack some warm clothes.  Hospitals are usually cold
  2. Pack some comfort items for you and/or for your child.  Favorite blanket, stuffed animal, coffee cup, etc.
  3. Ask to speak to a social worker to get connected to their palliative care team, to ask about child life resources, and if being in the hospital is going to be a financial hardship for you and your family, ask if they have some resources available.
  4. Know what your state’s policy is on visitors and support people being in the hospital during the pandemic.  Here in Oregon, we have Senate Bill 1606 that guarantees the right of a person with disabilities to have access to a support person 24/7.  This is not to be confused with a visitor, they are just visiting, but a support person is there to help the person with disabilities with all their Activities of Daily Living and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living.  If your State has a similar policy, print it out and keep it with you or have it pulled up on your phone for easy access.
  5. Go to the hospital with all your electronics fully charged and/or keep a power bank handy.  It could be a while until you will have the chance to charge them again.

I hope you find these lists beneficial and help to relieve a little of your stress in a stressful situation.

Hugs, Momma Bear

Emergency Room/Hospital Overnight bag – Parent Version

  • Backpack or large beach tote – I like a backpack because my hands are free for other things.
  • Street clothes, 3 changes, plus underwear & socks – plus pack a plastic bag to put dirty clothes in.
  • Jacket or warm sweater – hospitals are cold!
  • 1 set of pajamas – be aware that other people will see you in them so choose accordingly!
  • Sleeping mask – optional but recommended.
  • Slippers – to save on space, get ballet slipper-style or Tieks.  Hospital floors are NASTY so don’t walk barefooted!  Hint: when showering at the hospital, wear something on your feet such as socks or flipflops.  Even standing on a towel or washcloth is better than nothing.
  • Robe/housecoat – something lightweight.
  • Toiletry kit – shampoo, conditioner, bodywash, toothbrush/paste, brush/comb, headband/scrunchy, deodorant, eye liner, feminine supplies, razor, lotion. You can find toiletry kits fairly easily or make your own by shopping for travel sized items in most grocery stores, Walmart, Target, etc. 
  • Non-perishable snacks – protein bars, crackers & cheese, pepperoni sticks, trail mix, etc.  Us parents don’t like leaving the room, even after things have calmed down.  Make sure you eat!!
  • Refillable water bottle – I recommend 16 oz or larger because sometimes it’s hard to get water when things are busy and hospitals will dry you out.
  • Tea/coffee, water flavoring, sweetener/sugar packets, creamer packets – I know instant coffee is not preferable to most people.  Amazon does have some higher end instant coffee packets, including Starbucks.  Remember, this is to just get you through until you can find the real stuff.
  • Food gift cards – UberEATS, Door Dash, Instacart – these are great items to request from family & friends that want to support you!  Hospital food get old quick and is not always available when you are ready to eat.
  • Ear buds – I recommend having some favorite music downloaded in your phone.  A nice meditation or sleep music app is also good.
  • Address book or make sure all your important contacts are in your phone including spiritual advisor, family advocate, counselor, and/or primary care doctor.
  • Chargers for all electronics – iPad, phone, etc., including wall sockets; multi-chargers are great!
  • Power bank – in case outlets to charge your electronics are hard to come by.
  • Notebook & pen – when you have a bazillion doctors, nurses, and specialists in and out of your room, it’s hard to remember everything they say so take notes.  It’s also a good place to write down any questions you want to ask those bazillion doctors.
  • Medications & equipment i.e., glucometer & testing supplies, hearing aids and glasses.  Don’t forget to pack your meds and be sure to include something for headaches.  I also like to pack Melatonin and Emergen-C because hospitals are full of noisy sick people.
  • Hand sanitizer and masks – I don’t pack these because hospitals usually make you change into their own disposable masks and there is hand sanitizer gel and foam everywhere.  Save your space for something else.
  • Activities – book/magazines, variety puzzle book, tablet, coloring books for adult, knitting/crocheting, cards, etc.  Having books & magazines downloaded into your phone will save you room but are not the most convenient.  If you prefer, most hospital gifts shops will have a small selection if they haven’t been closed due to the pandemic.
  • Cash/debit card – I don’t usually take more than $40 in cash.  If I need more, my husband can always bring more.  Which brings me to purses.  I try to keep my purse at home but if I am in a hurry to leave, I just throw it in my backpack.  Men’s wallets are ok because they can keep them in their pockets.
  • Cheerful attitude – the hardest and most important thing to pack, but remember,  1. You are modeling behavior (if you need to break down, do it out of sight), 2. Your calm attitude will reassure them, and 3. You can advocate like hell for your child and still have a positive attitude.  Doctors and nurses are not the enemy; they are only human and trying to help.  Honey catches more flies than vinegar…

What To Add For A Longer Stay

  • If we are planning for a hospital stay such as a surgery, depending upon how long we might be there, I might increase my changes of clothes to 5 days.  I usually don’t pack more than that because I know that someone, usually my husband, will be visiting at least once a week and I can trade him dirty clothes for clean.
  • For long stays, I have been known to bring art supplies, small musical instruments, and my work laptop.
  • Your favorite pillow and blanket – these are on my must have list, especially since I have a bad neck and hospital pillows are not comfortable!
  • Another note on long stays: I know that it is very hard, but get out of the room at least once a day.  Go for a walk, go find a good cup of coffee or tea.  It’s not only good for our mental health but think of all the muscle mass you are losing by just sitting there…  When stuck in ICU with my son, I really wasn’t allowed to go anywhere, so every time I had to use the restroom, which was down the hall, I did 30 squats before leaving.  Sometimes, you have to get creative!

Emergency Room/Hospital Overnight bag – Child Version

  • Backpack or beach tote.
  • Street clothes, 1 set, plus underwear & socks – they are going to be wearing gowns so won’t need much in the way of clothes other than a set to go home in.
  • Favorite Blanket – having familiar things from home really helps!
  • Favorite plushie and/or toy – my son has a Care Bear and ball that he never leaves home without!
  • 3 sets of pajamas – some kids like to wear pajama bottoms under their hospital gown.
  • Slippers or slipper socks.
  • Robe – in case they can go walking.
  • Ear buds.
  • Phone.
  • Chargers for all electronics including wall sockets.  Multi-chargers are great!
  • Medication list.
  • Equipment such as hearing aids and glasses, special drinking cup, etc.
  • Bring any special medication in case the hospital can’t get it.  This has happened to us before!
  • List of diagnosis.
  • List of specialists and phone numbers.
  • Insurance cards/Advanced Directive/DNR – hard to think about but we need to be prepared for all eventualities.
  • Communication devices – iPad, PECS, eye gaze equipment.  Just because they are in the hospital, doesn’t mean they don’t get to communicate!
  • Social stories
  • Adaptive equipment such asAFOs, walker, wheelchair, prosthetics, hearing aids and glasses, etc. if we are in an emergency situation, I might leave these at home and have them brought to the hospital later.
  • Medical preference profile – create this ahead with your child if possible, and make the bazillion doctors, nurses and specialists READ it.  This is not only good information for them, but it lets your child’s voice and preferences be heard.  Plus, those bazillion doctors may never have dealt with a child with disabilities before and this is a great learning opportunity for them.
  • Activities (books, variety puzzle book, tablet, coloring books & supplies, playing cards) – have you ever been stuck in a hospital with a bored child?? (shudder) Keep them entertained!  It will help keep their mind of the scary things that are happening to and around them. 

What To Add For A Longer Stay

  • DVDs, video games, board games, a few special toys, art supplies, small musical instruments, thank you cards (for staff!), post cards to mail their friends, and fidgets.
  • Favorite pillow.
  • More clothes if needed.
  • Their favorite snack or drink from home, if it’s permitted.
  • If they have a Physical, Occupational or Speech therapy routine at home, if possible, continue that in the hospital.  Having a familiar routine helps normalize things for them.

Emergency Room/Hospital Overnight bag – Adult by themselves version

  • Backpack or large beach bag – key to remember is that if you are traveling by ambulance, less is better.  If this is a planned hospitalization, it’s ok to go a bit bigger.
  • Street clothes, 1 set, plus underwear & socks.
  • Jacket, warm sweater or bed jacket – hospitals are cold!
  • 3 set of pajamas – sometimes it’s nice to have your own clothes, even if you have to wear them under a hospital gown.
  • Sleeping mask – optional but can be nice to have.
  • Slippers/slipper socks – most hospital have slipper socks for patients but I never liked them.  I usually bring my own.
  • Robe/housecoat (optional) – The hospital will usually provide you one but if you have a favorite at home and it would make you feel better to wear it, bring it by all means!
  • Toiletry kit (shampoo, conditioner, hand soap, toothbrush/paste, brush/comb, headband, eye liner, fem supplies, razor) – for the most part, hospitals provide these things for their patients but if it will make you feel better to use your own products from home, go for it!  It would be better to buy travel size products or put your product into travel size bottles.
  • Ear buds.
  • Phone.
  • Address book or make sure all your important contacts are in your phone including spiritual advisor, family advocate, counselor, and primary care doctor.
  • Chargers for all electronics including wall sockets (phone, tablet, etc.) multi-chargers are great!
  • Notebook & pen – when you have a bazillion doctors, nurses, and specialists in and out of your room, it’s hard to remember everything.  It’s also good to use to write down any questions you have so you don’t forget to ask those bazillion doctors.
  • List of medications & allergies – if you have any unusual medications that the hospital might not have access to, bring those also.
  • Adaptive equipment such as hearing aids and glasses, etc.
  • List of diagnosis.
  • List of specialists and phone numbers.
  • Medical Preference Profile – it would be nice to see more people use this for themselves.  It can be used to express what works for you and what doesn’t, what helps in stressful situations and what your communication preferences are.
  • Insurance cards/Advanced Directive/DNR – hard to think about but we need to be prepared for all eventualities.
  • Refillable water bottle – you can bring this if you want but I don’t find it necessary.
  • Activities – books, variety puzzle book, tablet, coloring adult, cards, knitting/crocheting – whatever will help you get through your hospital stay.
  • Purse/wallet/Cash/debit card – FYI only take what you absolutely have to because there will be no way to lock it up.  I usually leave it all home if I am in the hospital

What To Add For A Longer Stay

  • Your favorite Blanket & pillow
  • Your favorite stuffed animal – Everyone, regardless of age, needs something to cuddle in the hospital!
  • Video games, DVDs
  • More clothes, if needed
  • Additional activities

Handy links!