Tips for Ensuring a Gluten-Free Hospital Stay
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- Be sure to make a copy of this checklist, distribute it to your family members, and keep it with you during your hospital visit.
- Keep this checklist with your chart of current medications, along with the names and addresses of each of your health care providers.
- Present a copy of this checklist to the managing nurse of the ward where you will be staying. It's also a good idea to make sure a copy goes to the pre-admission staff to ensure the information is placed at the front of your chart or documented in your computerized medical record. Be sure to ask that it be made easily visible to anyone inspecting your chart.
- Arrange for a written note from a doctor mandating a gluten-free diet. Be sure that the note clearly labels your condition as an allergy, so that there is no confusion among the staff about your dietary needs. If your visit requires you to be admitted, then, prior to your admission, arrange to meet with a representative from the departments that will be involved in your stay, such as pre-op, surgery, medical/surgery, pharmacy, nutrition services-dietitian, rehabilitation, etc.
- Ask for a allergy alert wristband, and consider requesting that the following words be printed in BOLDFACE on your chart, near your bed, or on the outside of your door: Celiac Disease: All foods and medications must be verified gluten-free!
- See if you can bring food and medicines you know to be gluten-free. If permitted, clearly label all food and medicine containers with your full name, date and room number.
- If your visit is unplanned, then arrange to speak with the hospital's Registered Dietitian as soon as you can. If you're unable, then make sure your family or care-giver knows in advance to make this arrangement. Since some dietary staff members may be unfamiliar with the intricacies of the gluten-free diet (Diet Technicians, Nutrition Assistants, Meal Assistants, etc.), it's good practice to speak directly with the Dietitian.
- Work with the Dietitian. Find out how the hospital chooses its gluten-free foods, and how those foods are processed in the kitchen. Find out who is in charge of for approving the hospital's gluten-free offerings.
- Bring some non-perishable gluten-free back-up snacks as rules permit. Gluten-free favorites like cookies, crackers, condiments, and cereal are easy to store. Label all food with your full name and room number.
- For a scheduled visits, see if you can get the dietary department to order some special gluten-free pasta, muffin mix, cake mix, or bread to make during your stay. Ask if you can supply your own. If a dietary staff offer to make shop for you, remind them not to select food from bulk bins.
Cynthia Kupper, RD, CD
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