12 Engaging Hospital Activities for Adults

If you or a loved one are staying in a hospital for an extended period of time, you might be looking for new ways to keep busy and avoid cabin fever.

We asked our community to share some fun activities they’ve used to pass the time in the hospital. Check out their advice:

1. Spend Time with Close Friends and Family

During visiting hours, you or a loved one can invite your friends and family to come visit. Spending time with the people you love often makes time slip away.

“In summer 2011, I went through meningitis and two neurological surgeries. I spent 17 days in the hospital. During that time, my family and closest friends came to visit; my mom and I had many words with friends competitions. I slept a lot too. At the end of my stay, I saw the most beautiful rainbow. I have not had an infection or surgery since.”

Sara S.

2. Catch Up On a TV Series

Have a series you keep meaning to watch but can’t find the time? Being bed-ridden can feel limiting, but now you have the chance to catch up on the series you’ve always wanted to check out.

P.S. If you’re watching on a phone, tablet, or computer, make sure to bring your charger and extension cord. This makes a great ask if someone is wondering what they can bring you.

“Once my son was stable, we played board games and card games and caught up on some TV and movies.”

Heather B.R.

3. Crosswords & Puzzles

While spending time in the hospital, you can stimulate your mind with a good book of sudoku, crosswords or other puzzles. Not only are you passing time, but you can also give your brain a small workout. These can be fun to do with visitors as well!

4. Get Your Self-Care On

Have a little you-time. This might mean trying out a new hairstyle or beauty routine, or perhaps scheduling a spa appointment or massage for when you get out of the hospital.

“Painted my nails. Every couple days would change the color.”

Pam B.

“Tried to untangle my hair. It kept me occupied during the night but I don’t suggest doing it for fun.”

Janet W.

5. Adult Coloring Books 

Adult coloring books have been found to relieve stress in a way that is similar to meditation or deep breathing. Similar to crosswords and puzzles, coloring books gently push you to stay in the present moment. If loved ones are wondering what they can bring you, try asking for some coloring books and pencils to get the creative juices flowing. 

“My daughter was in the hospital multiple times and for extended periods for years before her transplant. She was too sick to do much or concentrate. She liked to color, lots of adult coloring, many different types of books for coloring including a bible. She said she didn’t have to think about it.”

Susan W.

6. Learn a New Skill 

Consider learning a new skill that you’ve always wanted to try. Online classes, books, or tutorial videos exist to teach you anything from drawing to improv to a whole new language.

Learning a new skill can bring you into a flow-state, which is when your mind becomes completely immersed in the activity you’re doing. In this flow state, time seems to melt away.

7. Read Books & Magazines 

Whether you’re an avid reader or have been meaning to start, consider picking up a book or magazine to help pass time. You may read fiction to dive into a world that is not your own, or read a nonfiction novel to learn more about an event, person or culture you’ve always been curious about.

If audiobooks are more your style, consider downloading a few on your phone and listening while you relax or do other activities. 

8. Crafting

Crafts are a great way to get in touch with your creative side. You may knit scarves and hats for family members, or paint landscapes of your favorite places. Crafts are accessible activities to do from your hospital bed, and a lovely way to add a bit more color to your world. 

“When our daughter went through many surgeries, doctor appointments and chemo treatments, she bought a tablecloth stamped with flowers and vines and had people embroider while they visited. She didn’t care if all you could do was bring the needle up and go back down. We spent lots of time stitching and talking, sometimes over hard subjects. Since her death, we have finished it, thinking about her and now the cloth is used for special family gatherings. Nice to see who all worked on it and signed it. She looked for the joy in each day no matter how bad a day could be!”

Diane K.

9. Call a Loved One 

Entertainment and support is sometimes just a phone call away. You can head to speed dial for your closest loved ones, or catch up with people you’ve been meaning to chat with for a while. 

Simply chatting with someone about your day can help pass the time and create a bright spot in both your days.

10.Tackle Some Life Admin

You know how those little tasks like scheduling dentist appointments and renewing your tabs sneak up on you? Tackling some “life admin” tasks can pass the time surprisingly quickly and can make you feel productive. Consider using the time you spend in the hospital to knock off some items from your long-standing to-do list! These might include:

  • Canceling unused subscriptions & memberships
  • Removing old photos and apps from your phone
  • Organizing your digital files
  • Making holiday gift lists
  • Setting birthday reminders for friends and family
  • Planning a trip for when you’re out of the hospital

For more ideas, here’s a handy life admin checklist to get you started.

“Noted meds and reactions. Wrote emails, paid bills.”

Jane B.S.

11. Listen to Music

If music helps you find peace during your hospital stay, you may run through your favorite tunes, or experiment with your music taste by listening to a playlist that strays from your regular style. Switching up what you listen to can only expand your taste, and you may find something you really like!

12. Journal 

Writing is a therapeutic outlet for many. Recording your thoughts is a great way to release some tension, and possibly get creative.

“I wrote some notes about my parents’ past, sort of an ancestry piece.”

Margaret Jean A.

If you’d like to share some of these thoughts, you can use the CaringBridge Journal feature to share health updates, stories, and photos and videos with family and friends. People that view your journal can engage with entries by leaving words of encouragement and love. This feature can not only act as a personal journal, but also a place for loved ones to stay up to date on your health journey. 

Don’t go through your health journey alone.

You can stay connected to friends and family, plan and coordinate meals, and experience love from any distance.

All of this is ready for you when you start your personal CaringBridge site, which is completely free of charge, ad-free, private and secure. Don’t spend another minute alone!

What Are Your Ideas?

If you or a loved one have spent an extended period of time in a hospital, how did you pass the time? Please feel free to share your stories and ideas in the comments below. 

  • Anne LLewellyn

    These ideas are great. In 2014 I was dx with a Brain Tumor on November 24th. I was in the hospital for Thanksgiving. I was really too sick to realize it was a holiday, but than again on Christmas for Chemo. I did many of the things you listed and it helped me get through. Today with COVID it is much harder, but thankfully the hospital staff is getting used to helping patients do Facetime and Zoom calls with patients and families.

    Thank you for this post.

  • Christine D'Angelo

    My 31 year old niece has stage 4 lymphoma. She was diagnosed in March 2021 with a rare type. After 12 weeks in at Sloan Kettering hospital with infections and numerous trial treatments she only has a few weeks left. I feel so angry and helpless. I have read your articles which helped me through this difficult time, but the griving process is all too consuming.

  • Jo Vercruysse

    Neil we miss you and Penny a lot. Hope you are doing well. If you need anything just let us know.