How long will I have to stay in the hospital?

Patients stay in the hospital until they are medically stable. For a few patients this will take several days. Most patients with orthostatic hypotension (unstable pulse and/or blood pressure) and patients with bradycardia (slow heart rate) can expect to stay two to three weeks, as these conditions generally take a long time to improve.

We do not have a discharge "weight goal" for underweight patients, except in cases of extremely low weight. If a patient is underweight, they may be discharged when they are gaining 1-3 lbs./week, medically stable, and obtaining 100 percent of calories by eating meals (no supplement use). Some patients may be able to leave the hospital earlier if accepted for direct transfer by a residential eating disorders treatment program.

Why do I have to get up out of bed during meals?

Even though you are in the hospital, it is important for your recovery to remain as functional as possible. People tend to feel more helpless and tired if they stay in bed all the time. Meals are an active, important part of your recovery, and it is helpful to be alert and aware of your reactions to the process of eating.

Why can't we bring food from home?

We understand that your teen or young adult would prefer a good home-cooked meal over hospital food. Similarly, it is natural for parents to want to feed their children. However, in order for the recovery process to begin, patients need to use the services provided by the treatment team, including food. Dietary staff is also better able to assess eating patterns when there is a continual working relationship with the patient, which includes meal planning, education, and consumption of food provided. Later on, when your son or daughter can consistently eat the meals provided by the dietary staff, you will be able to bring some meals and snacks to be incorporated into the treatment.

Why can't parents stay during the meal?

Meals are a very important part of the treatment (we view them as a medical intervention) and require monitoring by the nursing staff. Your teen or young adult needs to begin to trust the staff during meals, which is more difficult if parents are present. Similarly, patients may be self-conscious about eating in front of friends and family. Meals with family members can be planned further into the treatment process.

If all we're doing is having our daughter eat regular food, why can't we do that at home? I'm a nurse and can check her blood pressure and pulse.

The hospital is providing much more than food. If your daughter had been able to eat at home, she would not need to be in the hospital. Eating disorders are very complicated. Round-the-clock observation enables us to see facets of the eating disorder that may be otherwise hidden, and begin to address them in treatment. Accurate and continual measurements of body weight, fluid intake, urine output, and calories consumed also enable the physician and dietitian to assess calorie needs much more accurately. The hospital is also the safest place for your daughter to be right now.

Many patients feel relief when they enter the hospital, because the constant internal dilemma that they have about which foods to choose and/or eat are removed. In addition, the power struggles which sometimes ensue at home, with parents trying to get their son or daughter to eat or prevent them from purging are not present in the hospital.

It is important to allow yourself room to be a parent, and it is asking too much of a parent to also provide medical treatment for their child. It is also confusing for adolescents and their parents when parents act as medical providers.

Why do the nurses have to search my belongings?

Eating disorders sometimes lead to behaviors you otherwise would not engage in. Going into the hospital is a big step, and it can be difficult to give up the use of artificial sweeteners, laxatives, or other substances when you may not feel ready. Sometimes items are also inadvertently brought in by visitors. However, having these things in your room could interfere with your recovery and/or pose a threat to your safety.

Why can't I be told the weight?

People with eating disorders tend to over-focus on their weight and body appearance, and it is easy for significant others to get pulled into this. We know you are concerned about your child's health, which may be threatened by an unhealthy body weight. However, we recommend that parents stay out of weight discussions, which can trigger arguments, comments, and dynamics that impede recovery. The easiest way to avoid this problem is to have no knowledge of the scale number. We also want to avoid situations in which a parent has information that the patient is not allowed to have, which can erode trust. In most cases, the physician will review weights periodically (every 5-7 days) with the patient.

Why can't parents stay in the hospital overnight?

Adolescents need space to begin to trust the treatment team, which is more difficult if parents are always available to meet their needs. Teens are also better able to experience their emotions when they have some time alone. This is very important in the recovery process.

Nursing staff are always available to patients if they need something, or if they are having a hard time. Parents also need an opportunity to get adequate rest and to get in touch with their own reactions to what is happening in the family. Parents who are well-rested and allow time for themselves are better able to provide support for their adolescent.

What should I bring with me?

We recommend that you bring a bathrobe, slippers, and two or three sets of pajamas. You also need to pack a seven- to 10-day supply of comfortable clothing to wear during the day (shorts, jeans, sweat pants, T-shirts, socks, tennis shoes, etc.) Bring a light jacket or sweatshirt as you may be able to spend some time outdoors when your condition improves. We do not have laundry facilities, so please arrange for someone to take your laundry home and bring you fresh clothing at regular intervals. Bring whatever toiletry items you'd like, or we can provide you with basics such as shampoo and toothpaste.

If you like, you are welcome to bring your own pillow and blanket or comforter. Items for decorating your room, such as framed photographs, posters, and artwork are fine. You may also bring a cell phone and laptop computer; Torrance Memorial Medical Center has free Wi-Fi available. Some other items you might like to have with you are DVD movies, books, a journal or art paper, crossword or jigsaw puzzles, and a music player.

For More Information

Eating Disorders Program

Patient Story

Confident and poised, the accomplished Kathleen Gleeson looks a far cry from her former self.