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 loved one in the hospital. Here’s what they said:
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.”
“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 FaceTime and Skype with a few people for her and that was great as well.”
2. Help Out Without Being Asked
When it comes to taking care of things back at the house, don’t wait for your loved one 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.”
“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.”
Another way you can help is by starting a CaringBridge website for them, where your loved one can share health updates and receive encouragement and support from their community.
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 their hands entertained.
You can also see if they forgot to pack anything before they went to the hospital – that would make a helpful addition to the gift bag, as well.
“Give them a goodie bag with things to occupy them…magazines, puzzles, decks of cards, writing and drawing pads, stamps, an iPad, lots of books.”
“An occasional flower (no need for a bouquet), a magazine, a cute picture. Small gestures of love.”
“Make a personal greeting card keeper: This gives them a place to keep the many thoughtful well wishing greeting cards they receive. It also keeps the cards handy to open the box and re-read when feeling alone or sad.”
Financial gifts can be just as meaningful to a friend in need:
“Because our family member was in the hospital in a city far from where we lived, we have numerous expenses for travel, staying in a hotel, eating meals out, that really took a financial toll. I would encourage friends to consider putting together financial donations to help families cope with unexpected expenses. When our family member’s employer did that for us, it helped far more than people sending little gifts that weren’t really useful, etc. Everyone wanted to help and did what they could see to do, but financial help was by far the most like a lifeline for us.”
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.”
“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.”
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.”
“Bring food to the house, that is the greatest gift.”
“All our hospital stays included a plastic box that could fit under the bed filled with favorite snacks and drinks, bottled water, your own mug for the tea.”
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.”
“As an adult, cards were the most appreciated.”
7. Create a CaringBridge Site
A free CaringBridge online health journal allows you to update everyone at once, so all your loved ones are on the same page. Loved ones can comment their support on your journal entries, and our on-site Planner helps you coordinate needs like bringing meals, rides to doctor appointments or taking care of pets.
“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.”
8. 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. You can even start a GoFundMe campaign through your CaringBridge site.
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.