CaringBridge Staff | 03.08.22
When you find out a friend or family member is in the hospital, you may be wondering what you can do to help out or cheer them up.
One good place to start is by bringing them a gift, whether it’s a small, helpful item like an extension cord or something thoughtful, like your favorite book.
To get you started, we asked our community on Facebook to share the most thoughtful or helpful gifts they’ve received during an extended hospital stay. We hope their ideas spark some inspiration to bring your own friend or family member.
1. Good Tissues & Toilet Paper
A common grievance among hospital patients is the lack of quality tissues and toilet paper. This might not be your first thought when bringing a gift to the hospital, but you might be surprised at how nice a couple of boxes of high-quality, soft bathroom products can be.
“Silly but it made me smile and turned out to be the best gift. I gift this to my hospitalized loved ones now. It’s a roll of really soft toilet paper. Pamper yourself in the small ways to get through the days! It’s affordable and ended up being really appreciated.”
Mindy S. M.
“Soft toilet paper, box of soft tissues, a lamp for soft light. See a theme?”
Laura W. B.
As the saying goes: good food, good mood. Consider bringing your loved one’s favorite yummy goodies to bring a smile to their face. Just make sure to check with their family for any dietary restrictions, and confirm you can bring food into the hospital.
“Bring food from restaurants and snacks, because the food at hospitals is [not so great].”
“My husband was in the hospital for 16 days. A friend brought me rolls of quarters for the vending machines. So thoughtful and useful.”
“I have food allergies and was starving because I couldn’t eat what was brought. When my friend dropped off melon cubes, pasta salad, and fresh cucumber, I ate for 36 hours.”
3. Quality Time
Hospital stays can get lonely. Be there for your loved one by checking up on them and spending time together, whatever way you can. If you are able, consider coming in for an in-person visit, or connect virtually with a phone call or video chat. Whichever way works best for you and your loved one, just being there can mean the world.
“Give them company. When my grandma was in a coma in the ICU, my best girlfriend drove out at like midnight to bring me knitting supplies, a book, etc. But the best part was that she sat with me for a bit and kept my mind off of things. Similarly, when my sister was in the PICU at Children’s right before she was trached, I stayed a night to give my parents a break.”
“In the 70’s I was in the hospital for two years with the odd weekend home. What I craved and needed the most was human companionship from family and friends. You can’t talk to flowers or a box of treats… When one is [in the hospital] long-term, visitors tend to space out after a few months.”
“After a serious surgery, my husband was in for 12 days. What meant the most to us was the people who showed up, especially when we knew it was an inconvenience for them, but also thoughtful enough to keep visits short. They supported me as a caregiver and ate meals with me.”
Nancy S. K.
4. Books & Magazines
Reading can provide an escape from your own world into an entirely new one, which might be just what your loved one could use. You might gift a few of your favorite books, or something you think they might like. Coloring books, sketchbooks and journals can provide a creative outlet. Magazines also make a great option, being highly visual and fun to flip through.
“Magazine to browse. Couldn’t concentrate enough to read a book, but a magazine was perfect.”
Linda M. B.
“Books, food, more books!”
5. Comfortable Clothes
As stated above, “soft” is a feeling that hospital patients crave. You can bring your loved one’s coziest clothes from home, or perhaps bring them something brand new and extra-soft: think robes, oversized sweatshirts, pajamas and socks.
6. Gift Cards
Gift cards can be a simple way to offer financial support in a thoughtful way. You might bring a card for their favorite restaurant or coffee shop, gas stations, or for something fun like an activity once they get out of the hospital.
“When my dad was hospitalized for 10 months after a spinal cord injury, we received everything from gift cards for food and gas to baseball tickets for the family to get out and about and even a gift card to make a teddy bear at Build-a-Bear workshop. Our network always checked our posts and sent wonderful cards and other things.”
Bethany D. A.
7. Extension Cord
What seems like a traditionally dull gift can actually be a huge asset in a hospital setting. Take the humble extension cord, for instance. Having an extra-long cord to get juice to your phone or tablet can be a game-changer, as can a power strip.
8. A Reminder of Home
Homesickness is a common feeling when in the hospital. Your loved one may be craving the comforts of home, whether that be a favorite blanket or their pet. If you aren’t sure what they’d enjoy, consider asking them what they miss most about home, and find a way to bring that feeling back to them.
“My 93 year old momma was in the hospital for a toe surgery. She always had one of her cats on her lap at home. She was frightened in the hospital and on pain meds. Anyway, I bought her a stuffed kitty. She never let go of it. She even talked to it and petted it when the drugs were playing with her mind. It comforted her.”
“I was in the hospital after my brain tumor surgery during Christmas. The highlight was a miniature lighted Christmas tree. The nurses and staff would come in my room every night and ask if they could turn it on! That was the very best memory–it will always have a special place in our front window every Christmas!
9. Self-Care Items
Long stretches in the hospital don’t exactly make it easy to prioritize hygiene the way you’re used to. Offering self-care items like deodorant, dry shampoo, lip balm, lotion and shaving kits can make your loved one feel a bit more like themselves.
“A friend bought me a special shampoo and conditioner. It’s something I will never forget because I was thought about, too.”
Lisa H. O.
“My step daughter brought me some fragrance-free lotion and a can of dry shampoo! Then she brushed it through my hair. It felt so good.”
“Anything to replace hospital issued clothing, bedding, toiletries.”
Hospitals are not exactly the most entertaining place for children. If your loved one has children, or if their child is the one in the hospital, consider bringing toys for them to play with. This may include coloring books, stuffed animals and games.
For more ideas, read our post on how to entertain a child in the hospital.
11. Helping Out at Home
When you’re at the hospital, especially if you have frequent visits or stay for long periods of time, managing the day-to-day at home can become incredibly difficult. One very helpful thing you can do for your loved one is to find out where you can help out at home.
This could include household tasks like mowing the lawn, dog-sitting or watering the plants. Or it may include something bigger, like helping with childcare. The peace of mind knowing their household is taken care of can be one of the greatest gifts you can give.
“Taking care of things at home. We spend a lot of time in the hospital with my medically complex daughter. Knowing the grass is cut, plants watered, mail brought in, etc is the biggest gift.”
“When my son was 6 weeks old he was in the NICU. The best gift was the family who stepped up and took care of our 1 year old daughter so we could be with him. They cared for her and brought her to us at the hospital so we could see her without leaving him.”
Note: Amber also mentioned how helpful the Ronald McDonald House was with her experience. If your loved one doesn’t know about the Ronald McDonald House, consider connecting them as a potential support system.
“The hospital we were in partnered with the Ronald McDonald house and they were amazing as well. Our stay was sudden and since I rode in the ambulance with him I had nothing with me. They washed my clothes and gave me a shirt, sweatpants, underwear and socks to wear while we waited for family to arrive with clothing. They provided food, a place to shower, toothpaste and toothbrush at no cost to us. That was a nice blessing.”
12. Handwritten Cards
A handwritten card is so thoughtful. It brings back a sense of longevity and caring in our digital-first world that no text can fully replicate. Plus, cards are wonderful to save and look back on when a bit of brightness is needed.
“The cards really cheered me up. My last hospital stay was my longest but because of Covid, I couldn’t have a single visitor.”
13. Care Package
Gifting a care package is a thoughtful and memorable way to support a friend or family member during their stay. There’s no wrong way to build a care package, but a good place to start is by gifting a mix of practical and thoughtful items. Consider trying out a few of the items suggested in this article!
“When I was a teenager I got hit by a car and broke my leg. My mom and dad’s friends went together and put a sunshine box together. It was all decorated real pretty with yellow everywhere and smiles on it. I would say there were probably 25 gifts in there. All wrapped singly and each day I got to open one but I can only open one every morning. That was really fun and also made the days go faster. I remember getting little puzzles to put together and coloring books. I got a jump rope for when I got out… I can’t remember everything but everything was so fun. Perhaps I couldn’t play with it each day, but it was nice to be able to open one everyday. I will never forget that.”
Diane B. D.
“Great coffee & food, cards, books, & my pillow!”
Diana D. K.
What Are Your Ideas?
What gifts have you given or received that made time in the hospital a little bit easier? Feel free to share your stories and ideas in the comments below.
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