You’ve just found out a family member or friend is in the hospital. You want to show you’re thinking about them. What would help the most? Flowers, a visit? Or maybe something to help them pass the time?
We asked CaringBridge families – the true experts – how to support a friend in the hospital. Here’s what they said:
7 Best Ways to Make a Friend’s Hospital Stay Better
1. Ask Before Visiting
While many people appreciate visits, it’s not always possible due to hospital rules or how the patient is feeling. Call ahead to find out if your friend can have visitors and feels well enough to see you.
- “I usually make it a practice to not visit someone in hospital, as I do not want visitors (other than immediate family) when I am there.” – Jan
- “In the local hospital [our daughter] had lots of visits, but after she was moved (about an hour away) she didn’t get as many visits – the visits were great for her (wish she had more), but even better for us because we got to take a little break. We did end up doing some face-time and Skype with a few people for her and that was great as well.” – Joann
2. Help Out Without Being Asked
When it comes to taking care of things back at the house, don’t wait for your friend to ask for help – they have so much on their mind. Just take care of the yard work and whatever needs doing.
- “Please don’t say this, ‘If you need something please let me know!’ Instead, bring food to the house, mow their yard, purchase a gas card, send cards, and visit when you can. DO something helpful.” – Pat
- “They did things for our family without asking. They made sure our pets and yard were cared for, they made us meals, and they were there.” – Kayla
3. Give a Goodie Bag & Small Gifts
The most common advice: Give small gifts or a goodie bag to keep someone with a lot of time on her hands entertained.
- “Give them a goodie bag with things to occupy them…magazines, puzzles, decks of cards, writing and drawing pads, stamps, an iPad, books, lots of books” – Elaine
- “An occasional flower (no need for a bouquet), a magazine, a cute picture. Small gestures of love.” – Darcy
- “Lots of movies and books to pass the time. Ask friends to bring healthy snacks and meals and coffee cards!” – Marlana
4. Bring Reminders of Home
Little pieces of home are a way to personalize a hospital room. Their regular pillow, favorite coffee mug, photos, or the local paper can help the new environment and schedule feel normal.
- “Bring your own pillow and pillow case and a comfy blanket.“ – Marlana
- “The thing that helped me the most wasn’t a person. It was a red decorative pillow. It smelled of home and helped keep the homesickness at bay.” – Jodye
5. Feed Them
A home-cooked meal in the hospital can be rare, so it’s extra-appreciated. For family of the patient, gift cards to local restaurants give them a change from the hospital cafeteria.
- “To show support: I think bringing the parents of children in the hospital a nice home cooked meal. There’s only so much fast food one wants to eat plus it gets expensive.” – Nikki
- “Bring food to the house, that is the greatest gift.” – Janice
- “All our hospital stays included a plastic box that could fit under the bed filled with favourite snacks and drinks, bottled water, your own mug for the tea.” – Lena
6. Offer Notes and Well Wishes
Whether it’s a card in the mail or a message on a CaringBridge website, encouraging words can go a long way to boosting someone’s spirits.
- “Just staying in touch was so needed……knowing we weren’t forgotten. Never underestimate how important a note or a text message is. They are vital.” – Toni
- “As an adult cards were the most appreciated.” – Darcy
- “First thing would be to sign up for CaringBridge and let everyone know how to get to your page. I was hospitalized in a city far away from my friends and family so in person visits were rare. The joy of the comforting and encouraging words were a tremendous help. It creates a community of people who are caring about you and that is an awesome feeling.” – Jeff
7. Start a Fundraiser for Your Friend
Medical bills are expensive and can add financial stress to an already emotionally difficult situation. But an online fundraiser can offer some financial relief.
For ideas of inspiring messages to put in a card, check out our 19 Inspirational Quotes About Hope and Healing.
What Would You Add?
How do you express your support when someone you care about is in the hospital? If you’ve had a long hospital stay, what did your friends do that meant the most? Share your tips for how to support a friend in the hospital below.
Are you caring for someone during a hospital stay or health crisis? If so, consider starting a CaringBridge website for them, where you can share health updates and receive encouragement and support from your community.