Caring for Families in the Hospital

MAY 6, 2016  /  MAUREEN WITMER  / 

Caring for Families in the Hospital

Being admitted to a hospital, whether for a few days or a few months, 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. But, as a mom who spent 35 days in the hospital with a sick baby, I know those virtues are hard to come by when sleep is fleeting and emotions are running high.

Here are some ideas of 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. Before we left for the hospital a dear friend brought over a basket with warm socks, lotions (hospitals are so dry, especially with all the hand sanitizing), chapstick, one of her favorite books, and magazines. I like to pick up cheap baskets whenever I see them on sale or in Target's dollar section. Think outside the box if you know the hospital stay is going to be a longer one. Consider buying necessities like toothpaste and a toothbrush, deodorant, and laundry detergent. 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. One of my favorite things to do is buy a gift card to the hospital coffee shop so the mom in the hospital can treat herself to coffee or tea when she needs a comforting pick me up. If you know the hospital stay is going to be lengthy and you're in a community of people who want to help a family, 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 the family has other children, offer to watch them. When a mother has to spend time in the hospital, one of her biggest worries is how her 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 make crafts to decorate the hospital room.
  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 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 your schedule is thrown off, making the time to sit and eat sometimes doesn't happen. Having quick, portable snacks that patients and visitors can enjoy can be a lifesaver. Raid your pantry for staples or make a trip to a store like Trader Joes for some treats.
  6. Pay for lodging. We had friends cover part of our stay at the Ronald McDonald House. It was such a sweet surprise when we went to check out and saw our bill was lower than what we thought it would be. 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? Gardening need to be done? We came home from a hospital visit to find our planters full of fresh, colorful flowers. What a lovely way to be welcomed home! If you have access to a key to their house doing a thorough cleaning, especially if they've been gone for an extended time, is an amazing gift.
  8. Freezer meals. Since families will be in and out of their home/lodging, freezer meals are indispensable. Buy a eco-friendly disposable container like Reynolds Heat and Eat for mess free cooking and clean up. Find our list of trusted freezer recipes here.

What are some other ways you've cared for families who had a hospital stay? Or how have you been cared for during a hospital stay?

Read other recent articles by Maureen Witmer:

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Adina & Maureen
Adina & Maureen

Welcome! We're thrilled you stopped by. Our own joys and sorrows have taught us that a well-timed meal delivered by a friend is one of the best gifts imaginable. In this space, we share our favorite recipes to take to friends, meal-taking tips, and other ways to care for those who are dear to you.

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