I know from personal experience that day care medical appointments can be tough and often gruelling. Whether they’re for treatment, tests or something else, they can be an emotional and physical challenge.

Preparing for these appointments – working out how to get there, what to bring, and how to wind down afterwards – really helps to make a difficult experience a little more manageable.

My first big tip

If you can, bring someone with you to the appointment, perhaps guardians/parents or friends.

I’ve found that having someone with me, whom I know and trust, helps me to feel calmer and allows an invaluable opportunity to talk, whether that’s letting out some emotion or sharing a joke about the day.

It’s really useful for the practical stuff too: whether that means being driven to the appointment or having someone with you to help navigate public transport.

Getting there

  • Try to plan in advance how you’ll get to the appointment – this might mean checking Google Maps, buying train tickets beforehand, and working out when to set off. For me, planning this makes the day of the appointment less stressful, because there’s one fewer task to deal with.
  • If possible, leave early. This can help remove some stress from the journey, and it means that you’re not thrust into all the intensity of the appointment as soon as you arrive at the hospital.
  • If you’re driving, leave lots of time to park and to make your way through the hospital.

What to bring

It’s a good idea to bring a variety of things, because the day care might last a long time.

For some kinds of day care, you need to stay awake throughout, so pack things with you that will keep you interested and engaged for a long time.

Also, bear in mind that hospital TVs don’t always work, so don’t rely on those to provide entertainment!

It’s really important to go with what you like. I’ve tried some of these during my appointments, so they might provide some useful ideas. You know what you like, but I’ve tried these at some time or other:

  • A phone or tablet – watching or listening to a programme or music gives something to focus on, and it requires very little energy (particularly useful for day care, which can be emotionally and physically draining).
  • Headphones – hospital wards are often really loud. With headphones, you can actually hear what’s playing on a phone or tablet.
  • A book – one for you to read, or have read to you. I’d suggest choosing something that’s easy to read and, potentially, a book you’re familiar with. It can be comforting to have something familiar, like a favourite story.
  • Talking – with whoever has come with you. This is a particularly good activity if you need to stay awake during the day care, because it means you can’t doze off unnoticed!
  • Cards/board games – I’ve found it relaxing to play a game with whoever has accompanied me to the hospital. At the very least, it can help pass the time, and day care can be long and dull!

Afterwards

Plan something nice to do after the day care: whether that’s watching a film, going for a meal, or whatever else you enjoy. It’s important that it’s something you want to do – you’re the one going through the appointment, not whoever’s come with you! It can be really good to have something to look forward to, and also something to talk about before and during the day.

Bank it

It doesn’t have to be straight after the day care, especially because appointments can often be really tiring, so you might want to go straight home.

Instead, the treat could be ‘banked’ for another day.

Not expensive

It doesn’t have to be expensive: one of my favourites is a take-away and a good film on TV.

Something positive

Planning something good is also a great way to make the day a little more enjoyable. Rather than just being about the appointment, the day can also be about the treat. Honestly, it can really make a difference.

Equally, it’s a great opportunity to wind-down from the stress of an appointment, and can be a chance to process some of the emotion.

One last thing

Hopefully, this has given you some useful ideas about how to manage day care appointments. It’s what has helped me. But you’ll find a way of managing day care appointments that’s right for you. It’s not about anyone else.