Social workers offer patients this advice for making hospitalization easier:

*Read your insurance policies before you go to the hospital to find out what your plan covers and what it doesn't cover. If you need assistance, contact the hospital social worker or your insurance company representative.

*Don't be afraid to ask your doctor questions about your condition and how he or she expects you to function upon discharge.

*Get your household finances in order. This is especially important for people with chronic and terminal diseases. Whose name is the mortgage in? Whose name are the stocks or bonds in? Do you have immediate access to your savings should you need money? What are your assets?

*Examine your attitudes toward illness and the biases you have about your body and health. If you were to become comatose with little likelihood of awakening, would you want to be kept alive on machines? Try to talk about these issues with loved ones while you are well.

*If you are elderly, look at where and how you are living. Is it getting harder to get up the stairs? Do you live alone? Are there people around you who can help you?

*If you do have to be hospitalized and are concerned about how you will be able to manage following hospitalization, talk with your doctor and the hospital social work department.