As many parents who care for a child with cancer or a chronic life threatening illness are very aware, the time spent with your child in hospital can be a very emotionally and mentally draining time. 

Having access to the basics such as adequate food, somewhere to sleep, and simply somewhere to recharge your batteries during your child's time in hospital, can make a profound difference to your ability to cope with your child's treatment, and to being able to be totally present for your child when they are afraid and unwell. 

There are a number of options available to parents during their child's stay, such as family resource rooms, counsellors and social supports.  Accommodation options however can often be tricky.  If you are fortunate enoughto have friends or family to stay with it can relieve the financial strain however staying with people when undergoing high levels of stress can be very difficult and at times place more emotional strain on the parent and child. 

Let’s take a look at some of the accommodation options available to families.

On the ward

When your child is admitted to the ward you will be welcomed and encouraged to stay overnight next to your child. Usually one parent is permitted to stay each night. Siblings are not permitted over night.  There is usually a day bed available that converts to a bed at night.  The hospital will provide you sheets, blanket and pillows.  Some hospitals have a parent room that you may need to share with  another parent over night.  You will need to check with ward staff to see if this option is available. 

Ronald McDonald House 

Is 'home-away-from-home' for seriously ill children and their families to stay in during their child’s hospitalisation and treatments.  Bookings are generally made by your health care professional such as social worker or medical department nurse/officer.  As accommodation with RMH is often in high demand your child’s name is placed on a waiting list and your accommodation is usually confirmed by 4pm on the day of arrival.  If you are lucky enough to be allocated a room at Ronald McDonald House it is a great accommodation option, with all the comforts of home in a shared house environment.  You will need to be prepared to wash your bedding and clean your room with fresh sheets etc. prior to departure.  If you have a long day of travel ahead of you this can be an additional strain. The cost of RHM is kept low however if you are staying for extensive periods of time this can become an exorbitant cost.  Parking often available at the house or through the hospital parking, costs for parking vary. Patient Travel Subsidy is available to assist with the cost of accommodation during your child’s hospital visits.  

Medihotels, Care by Parent and Transplant Units 

Sme of the children’s hospitals have in-house accommodation for children requiring a high level of medical care during their outpatient appointments or long term stay.  These accommodation options are a great service provided by the hospitals but availability can often be limited.  If you are fortunate enough to access these accommodation services they come highly recommended as I personally have found this to be the most affordable and stress free accommodation option available. These accommodation options are usually booked by your health care professional, social worker or medical department nurse/officer and is covered by Medicare, Private Health Insurance or Patient Travel Subsidy. Parking is usually available through the hospital car parking facility.

Hotel Accommodation 

Hotel or motel accommodation can be very convenient as depending on events happening in the area, there is usually great availability.  Hotel accommodation is more expensive but depending on the time you are staying, if you can afford to stay at a hotel it can be a simple stress free option.  Usually check out is between 10-11am.  If you have a good relationship with the Hotel you may be allowed to leave your vehicle for longer so that you do not have to find car parking at the hospital.  Your Patient Travel Subsidy will cover a portion of the cost of you Hotel. You will need to keep your receipts and complete your travel assistance forms with your referring doctor and specialists’ approval.

For many families, ongoing hospital visits, medications, treatments and travel costs can cause extreme financial strain. The additional stress of sourcing and paying for accommodation during your child’s hospital stay is one that could be done without. As I did myself, when going through such a stressful time, parents often resort to sleeping on that hard moulded chair. Knowing that you have ‘a place to call home’ when you and your child are experiencing such uncertainty can make a world of difference.

There are limited sources of assistance that can help with paying for accommodation.  Some social work departments can access funds to help.  There are also community agencies, case workers and illness specific organisations that can assist.  

Country Hope supports families to access the assistance they need when and how it is needed the most.  If you need more information or would like to help Country Hope to continue to provide ongoing support to regional families caring for a child with cancer or other life threatening illness please our friendly staff at the Country Hope Office on 1800 007 880