Starting before Thanksgiving, reminders that Christmas is coming appear every place you look, including hospitals. Between Dec. 23 until Jan 2 hospital personal are scaled back, not only because they want to be with their families but every effort is made to keep patients at home.
The heavy build up alone is enough to make one feel overwhelmed, but having to be hospitalized at the end of the year can be very depressing for patients. Even though this has been stressed on every post relating to gift giving for hospital patients, it’s important to remember that the best present you can give is spending time with the person, particularly at this time of year when people are dashing from party to party and don’t make it to the hospital.
In addition to the suggestions from Unique Gifts for Hospital Patients consider some of the following ways to bring some holiday cheer.
• Items to brighten a room are always helpful. A small tree that you can trim together can provide an enjoyable activity as well as make the room a bit more cheerful. Check first about whether live plants are allowed. Poinsettias, Christmas cactus and other holiday plants serve a twofold purpose, they bring color to the room and they give the patient something to care for. Studies have shown health benefit when patients care for live plants in their room.
• Both Chanukah and Kwanza involve lighting of candles over a period of days. Look around for battery powdered candles and make your own holders. Colored votives with flameless tea lights (can get them at the Dollar Store) can look wonderful. Be sure to bring lots of extra batteries, since it’s easy to leave a light on.
• Arrange with the staff to bring a much loved pet to the hospital for a brief visit, If that’s not possible, take a picture and make a personalized holiday card from the pet.
• We all need purpose to thrive. If the person is able to do so, help them with their holiday shopping on-line or at the hospital gift shop. Many of the latter have unique gifts that you can’t find anywhere else. If they have the energy, there are things they can make to brighten their room as well as the unit they are on. My partner at CCIN showed a patient how to make 3-D Snowflakes. Because of a compromised immune system, this person was not allowed to leave their room during the day and could only go to the nurse’s station at night. Not only did they decorate their room with the snowflakes, but they showed the nurses how to make them and together they decorated the entire unit.
Simple things to make, which others will enjoy include:
- Zen gardens: This would be a great gift to leave the hospital unit after the person leaves.
- Calligraphy: They can spend hours learning to do this well and then create beautiful hand written cards and notes
- Felt Fortune Cookies: It could be fun to make a bowl full of fortune cookies for New Year’s Eve/Day that staff and visitors can enjoy.
- For other ideas of things to make, check out the Take a Break Archives
• Holiday staff are going the extra mile, so it’s nice to remember them with items they can enjoy. A room that is decorated and cheerful, is a work environment they are going to appreciate as much as the patient.
• Bring boxes of holiday cards and stamps. Help them write notes, address and stamp them. Take them with you so you can post them. Bring along confetti, stamps and inks, colored pens so they can make extra special cards this season.
• On December 18, 1997, Seinfeld introduced the world to Festivus. Now celebrated on Dec. 23 consider introducing something totally new in the holiday mix.
• Watching favorite holiday films together can be fun, but if you want to try something different bring a different type of film such as:
- Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
- Bad Santa
- The Nightmare Before Christmas
• Books sound like a great idea, but many times people just don’t have the concentration to read for very long. Some people love being read to and enjoy hearing books from their childhood. Most American libraries have a free system where you can download books, including audio versions, for MP3 devices and tablets . If the person doesn’t have an MP3 device, consider purchasing an inexpensive one and downloading a variety of books, which they can listen to when they are up to it.
• Candy and special foods can be enjoyable but again, be conscious of special diets.