What to Bring Someone in the Hospital (And What NOT to Do!)

What to Bring to Someone in the Hospital

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I’m often asked what to do for, or how to help, a friend who is in the hospital. Several years ago, after an extended hospital stay, I jotted down all of the kind and thoughtful things my friends and family did for me (along with a few hospital etiquette faux pas to avoid). A lot has certainly changed in recent years due to visitor restrictions, but I believe everything I wrote all those years ago remains true. The dos and don’ts, the gifts — these are all ways we can demonstrate we care for our loved ones, in both our actions and in our giving. 

You might not need this post right now, but file it (or pin it!) away because it might be helpful in the future. And please add your suggestions to the comments section of the post. Your ideas are so helpful to other readers!

Gift Ideas:

These are some of the things I received, but also ideas that readers have shared. Some are good for any hospital stay, while others are good for longer hospital stays. A gift basket with several of these would be nice for an extended hospital stay.

  • Floral or potted arrangement. A beautiful arrangement brightens the spirit. For a longer hospital stay, an orchid or potted plant would be a nice thought.
  • Pretty blanket. A Pottery Barn or Barefoot Dreams throw makes a hospital room feel a tad more cozy and is much warmer than the thin blankets the hospital provides.
  • Cozy Wrap. You never knew when a doctor or nurse will pop in, so having a wrap to quickly cover up a little is a life saver. I wore my Ingrid and Isabel cozy wrap nearly everyday in the hospital! It’s a maternity style, so other favorites are Barefoot Dreams cardigans or the White and Warren’s cashmere wrap.
  • Nice pillow and pillowcase. The hospital pillows are made from plastic and are, well, not the best. A comfy pillow and/or luxurious pillowcase would be a welcome change. These silk pillowcases are always a favorite on our Gift Guides! 
  • Socks and/or slippers. Great socks are perfect for a cold hospital room.
  • Hand lotion. Frequent hand washing in the hospital leads to really dry hands. For women, a L’Occitane hand lotion would be so nice and smells so good.
  • Dry shampoo and travel brush. A good dry shampoo is a fun gift to receive during a long hospital stay. Sometimes you’re only able to wash your hair every few days, so dry shampoos are essential! The Kristin Ess dry shampoo from Target works great.
  • A luxurious beauty product. Spoil them with something they might not buy themselves. My skin was terribly dry in the hospital, and I loved my Beautycounter Nourishing Cleansing Balm.
  • Nail file or nail kit. 
  • Favorite fountain drink or iced tea. A fresh juice or smoothie would also be a welcome change from the hospital cafeteria’s offerings!
  • Healthy snacks. Hospital food is usually heavy and bland. It’s nice to stock them up with granola bars, greek yogurt (if there is a fridge in the room), fruit, and even things like pimento cheese and chicken salad (to have on hand if that day’s lunch tray was inedible).
  • Cookie delivery. Tiff’s Treats in Texas will send milk with warm cookies! My friends sent me some and it made my day — plus I had a fun treat for my girls when they visited.
  • Streaming service gift card. A Netflix, Hulu, or DisneyPlus subscription could be nice for entertainment. 
  • Extra-long iPhone charger. I could not have survived without this charger!
  • Books and magazines, or playing cards.
  • Mini bluetooth speaker.
  • Airpods or headphones. Even a sound machine. Anything to drown out the beeps and buzzing of the hospital. 
  • Hair blow out. Drying your hair when weak and bed-ridden is nearly impossible. Perhaps your friend would like someone to dry it for her and make her feel beautiful. Drybar offers this service in select cities! Check to see if this is currently allowed at the hospital before sending! 
  • Manicure gift certificate. Download Cherry offers on demand manicures. (Check to see if this is currently allowed before sending.)
  • iTunes gift cards. For music and audio books.
  • Spotify or Audible membership. Also great for music and audio books! 
  • Food delivery gift card. Hospital food gets old, so have a good meal delivered from a local restaurant. This is also a nice gesture if you can’t visit in person. DoorDash, Uber Eats or Favor would be great! 
  • Make a playlist of uplifting music or favorite podcasts. You can share this with them on Spotify or Apple Music.
  • List of encouraging Bible verses. 
  • Thank you notes, pen, notepad, and stamps. A notebook to keep bedside is nice for jotting down reminders and keeping a list of thank you notes one needs to write. Having stamps on hand is also helpful!
  • Adult coloring book and colored pencils. Find them on Amazon.
  • Activities and treats for children. Coloring books, markers, games, and fun snacks are great to have on hand for children when they visit. Otherwise they can get rambunctious and bored pretty fast!
  • Parking or valet passes. If you are able to purchase prepaid parking passes for the hospital garage, it’s nice to give these to the spouse and family of the patient because coming and going can add up. 
  • Bring something for the nurses and techs. A friend brought a box of bagels to leave at the nurse’s station from me during my hospital stay. It was much appreciated!
  • Bowl of treats for staff. A friend told me that she left a bowl of candy out with a sign that said, “Take one,” when her daughter was in the hospital. Just a small way to say thanks to the nurses, techs, and cleaning staff. You could do this for a friend or family member’s hospital room.
  • Scripture cards. Tiny Tag created the most beautiful watercolor scripture cards, “Calm in the Chaos.” Each verse would bring a daily dose of encouragement to anyone! For an extra thoughtful touch, laminate them and put on a ring so they can easily keep them handy (and clean) while in the hospital. 

Things to Do & Not Do For Someone in the Hospital:

  • Never visit if you or someone in your home is currently sick. Don’t put the patient at risk if there is even a small chance you might be passing along bad germs.
  • Always sanitize your hands upon entering and leaving the room. 
  • Don’t sit on someone’s hospital bed. Patients often feel they don’t have any personal space.
  • Never use the in-room bathroom. A reader once told me how awkward it was when her father-in-law used the bathroom in her postpartum room — not cool! Just use the one down the hall.
  • If the doctor comes in for rounds, step outside the room. Patient privacy, after all.
  • Offer to pray but ask what prayer requests the person has. As one reader told me, it’s often for family members and needs outside the person’s own health needs.
  • Offer to drive children or elderly parents to visit their loved one in hospital.
  • Call or text before visiting. You never know if someone is getting out of the shower or is indisposed for other reasons. Give them a heads up and make sure he or she is up for a visit (and understand if the person declines your offer to visit).
  • Show up with something in hand. It can be as simple as an iced tea, a meal from a favorite restaurant, or a thoughtful gift. See below for lots of ideas (courtesy of my friends and family, who brought these things to me!).

What thoughtful things would you add to this list? Also, don’t miss my post about What to Do For a Friend with Caner, or the When Your Child Has a Hospital Visit post that has gift ideas for children. And if you’re looking for ideas on setting up a meal train for a family or friend in the hospital, this post has everything you need to know about meal train etiquette!

Top photo: Megan Weaver

Lee
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20 thoughts on “What to Bring to Someone in the Hospital

  1. Wohoo!! Wonderful Ideas I must say, I couldn’t even think about things like blankets, pillows, DVDs, and books magazines etc. Actually, when you are visiting someone in hospital, it becomes difficult to think what is the right thing to do but having some gift in your hand can make out a way to cheer up the person. I personally love flowers. I used to give beautiful flowers bouquet every day to my best friend when she met an accident and was admitted to the hospital last year. I used to order it online from Hospital Florist in Sydney and I must say their quick delivery services was even better than awesome! You can check out amazing flowers and balloons at their website.

  2. NEVER offer to pray, bring bible verses, or make any references to religion whatsoever unless you’re certain of the patient’s religious beliefs.

    1. It’s about my love and God’s love for them. If someone is offended by the truth and what works, they have bigger issues in life…

  3. We in the Dallas Fire Department famiily have a retired female Fire Captain who sends a cozy monogramed throw to the patient either at hoe or in the hospital that she does herself. It is a keepsake we all treasure.

  4. Some great ideas but the top of your list is flowers or plants which most hospitals will not allow in wards these days.

  5. This is a GREAT list with wonderful ideas I hadn’t thought of. Thank you for putting it together – my cousin is going through major surgery and I live out of town and can’t visit her.

    I appreciate it!

  6. Lee,

    Thanks for sharing all of these wonderful ideas, as I look for some good gift ideas to send my cousin who just had open heart surgery.
    As a nurse who works for a large pediatric hospital, and a mother of a child who endured many hospital stays for treatment of cancer, you have shared many great ideas and view points that are right on target!
    Thanks for giving me some good ideas that I hadn’t even considered sending to my cousin, but think she would enjoy them as much as I would!
    Kim
    Cincinnati, OH

  7. Good tips , however, because of health and safety, most hospitals do not allow fresh flowers to be bought in. Instead bring a nice plastic flower arrangement. No only do you not have to water, it also does not wilt and die!!!

  8. Hospital stays have been especially difficult over the last year and a half with visitor restrictions due to covid. Anything you can do to brighten a patient’s day while they are in the hospital is such an appreciated act of service. Thank you for sharing this great advice. My favorite tip for what to bring is warm cookies!

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