How to Care for Someone in the Hospital

Being admitted to a hospital, whether for a few days or a few weeks, whether it’s expected or comes out of nowhere, can be a very stressful experience. Any change in routine, especially if you have children, can throw everyone off and require flexibility and patience. As someone who recently had unexpected surgery and then spent a week in the hospital and many weeks at home recovering, I know that patience and flexibility can be in short supply.

Here are some ideas from TakeThemAMeal.com for how to care for a family who is in the hospital. Instead of asking how you can help (which can be hard to answer when you’re in the midst of the hospital stay), consider just doing. When in the hospital there are a lot of uncertainties, but one thing is for sure—the family will appreciate anything you do to show them you care.

  1. Put together a hospital care kit. Look for inexpensive baskets on sale at discount stores or Target’s dollar section and fill them with things for the patient and family members who will spend many hours keeping the patient company. Consider buying things like warm socks or a throw since hospitals can be cold, lotions (hospitals are so dry, especially with all the hand sanitizing), chapstick, books, puzzle books, adult and kid coloring books, card games and magazines. Other basics to include are toothpaste and a toothbrush, dry-wash for hair and deodorant. Having those things on hand will save the family from needing to run out to the store.
  2. Gift cards. Gift cards. Gift cards. Gift cards are a wonderful blessing to families facing a hospital stay. Cards to nearby restaurants, gas gift cards and VISA gift cards are all welcome gestures. Most hospitals have a coffee shop or two in their cafeteria. Buy a gift card to the hospital coffee shop so the parent/spouse can treat him/herself to coffee or tea as a comforting pick-me-up. If you know the hospital stay is going to be lengthy and your congregation can become involved, consider setting up a virtual gift card shower. You can use Perfect Potluck to organize the types of cards. For instance, rename the ‘Main Dish’ field ‘Target Gift Cards’ and put in the desired number. Send out the schedule to anyone you know who might want to chip in.
  3. Think of the needs of the children in the family. If a child is hospitalized, offer to watch the other children in the family. When a mother and/or father has to spend time in the hospital, one of their biggest worries can be how their children are going to be affected. Consider doing something fun nearby like visiting a park or a children’s museum. Or bring along art supplies to decorate the hospital room or a game to play.
  4. Offer to take a walk. It may sound simple but a quick 30-minute walk outside the hospital with a friend who cares can be invigorating.
  5. Drop off a snack basket. Granola bars, crackers, canned or dried fruit, popcorn, juice, pretzels, beef jerky. Anything that is nourishing and non-perishable can be a great blessing to a family in the hospital. Since their schedule is thrown off, making the time to sit and eat sometimes doesn’t happen. Having quick, portable snacks that patients (depending on diet restrictions) and visitors can enjoy can be a lifesaver.
  6. Pay for lodging. Cover part of the family’s stay at a hotel or Ronald McDonald House. Even covering one night at a hotel can be an encouragement.
  7. Cover practical needs at home. If a family is going to be away from their house for an extended time, does their grass need to be mowed or the leaves raked? Does gardening need to be done? If you have permission and a key, doing a thorough cleaning, especially if the family has been gone for an extended time, is an amazing gift.
  8. Provide a meal. Since families may be in and out of their home or hotel room, consider providing a home-cooked meal that can be heated in the microwave and eaten whenever it is convenient. If the family is staying in their home or has access to a freezer, consider providing a freezer meal that can be used now or later.

One final note, if you have young children, rethink bringing them along when visiting someone in the hospital, especially someone in intensive care. Bring your spouse or a friend along who can entertain your children so that you can focus on the patient and their family members. Don’t expect a member of the patient’s family to watch your children.

We would like to thank Connie Faber for submitting this great E-idea. Connie and her husband, Dave, attend Ebenfeld MB Church in Hillsboro, Kansas. She is the editor of Christian Leader. 

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