Years ago my mother was hospitalized for close to a month. I started bringing her something small each day, which she looked forward to. After a few weeks I was running out of ideas and started asking everyone I knew for suggestions. Books, magazines and crossword puzzles only go so far.
Her favorite gift was a beta fish, which lived in a small glass bowl, only requiring feeding every other day. This kept her occupied for hours and entertained the staff as well. However, it is unlikely that most hospitals would allow such a “visitor” these days. One of the important aspects of the fish was that it gave her something she felt responsible for. After undergoing major surgery, one of her first concerns was whether “Darth,” her name for the fish, had been fed.
Studies have shown that nursing home patients do much better if they have a live plant they care for. If the person is in a part of the hospital that allows flowers and plants, give them a plant to look after-not one that requires too much care though.
Before taking something to the hospital, check out rules and regulations about what’s allowed for the area of the hospital where the person is staying. Some units do not permit cut flowers or plants. Balloons and silk flowers can help to brighten the room along with a special picture in such cases.
Feeling attractive brightens one’s mood, so providing a unique bed jacket, shawl, bathrobe or slippers can do a lot to boost someone’s morale. Old Navy will often have seasonal pajama bottoms and colorful socks that can be fun. A basket of toiletries can be very welcome, particularly if they had to leave suddenly for the hospital and don’t have their preferred toothpaste, lotion, lipstick etc. Avoid scented products whenever possible due to allergies.
Take a Break: Having something to do is critical. Using Wednesday’s “Take a Break Day” posts are a good way to have unique projects for them to do. For a quick overview use the Pinterest site Take a Break. Some of these will be fun projects to do together, which can make the visit a bit more fun for both of you.
Art Kit: You might want to make your own “art kit” for them by including markers, colored pencils, special paper, scissors, tape and even some copies of mandalas for them to color.
Craft Kits: These aren’t for everyone, but if they like to make things, picking up a small craft project from stores like Michael’s or Joann’s can be a lifesaver. Some people can spend all day happily making beaded bracelets or crocheting a hat. If you think it’s a good fit, there are many different types of kits you can pick up. A set of uniquely colored and designed beads can occupy someone who likes to make jewelry for hours.
Puzzle books are entertaining and exercise the brain as well. Hospital gift shops will contain a variety of such books. However, check out your local bookstore, or even used book store, as many of them have such books on the bargain sale rack. Minute mysteries can keep one occupied for hours.
Comfort Items: Providing items like a special pillow and lotion can help to ease the time in bed. For many, comfort food is a must. Whether it’s a sandwich from the favorite deli, organic chocolate, or that special Mac and cheese that only you can make, having food other than the hospitals is a welcome change. Be sure to check first about special diets. An eye mask may be ideal for the patient that wants to sleep. If it’s something the patient can have, arrange for a massage.
Electronics: A laptop computer, iPad, iPod, tablet, or Kindle provides hours of entertainment, as well as a way to stay connected. These are expensive items, but you can often find sales at Amazon or at electronic stores. Many hospitals and libraries offer iPad’s, or their equivalent, and electronic books on loan, so check out their availability. The toy section of your local big box store (e.g. Wal-Mart or K Mart) will have some portable electronic games, which can help pass the time. One word of caution, electronic items can easily be stolen so encourage the person to lock up their devices when not in the room.
Since most hospitals offer free Wi-fi, consider giving a month or longer subscription to websites that provide video streaming-Amazon Prime, Netflicks, Hula Plus. If they aren't tech savvy, spend some time teaching them how to operate their device.
Keep in mind that the staff can be as entertained by something you bring as much as the patient. If the staff stays an extra few minutes to talk about the new gift that’s arrived, it gives a lift to the patient.