12 Ways to Help Someone in the Hospital

Whether it’s a dear friend, a family member or someone’s child in the hospital it’s natural to want to help but people often don’t know what they can do. I have a lot of hospital experience – not only have I been a patient, I have had to take care of my son, who has a rare disease and has been in and out of the hospital, and my mother, who recently spent two weeks in the hospital.

While caring for my loved ones I got several calls from people wondering what they can do. Sometimes it’s hard to think of things on the spot and sometimes you just don’t want to ask. So I thought I’d put together a list of things to do for someone (and their family members) while in the hospital.

1. Don’t ask if there is anything you can do, just do it.

20140218_1232492. Snacks for the hospital room. This is helpful for family members who are taking care of the patient. A few of my co-workers put together a box of snacks for us while my mom was in the hospital. It was great.


3. Bring new pajamas. Most patients hate the hospital gowns and if they are allowed to wear regular pajamas they appreciate a new pair.

4. Drop off books, magazines and games that can be played with one other person in bed. Being in the hospital can be boring and the patient or family caregivers might want a distraction.

5. Visit but keep it short. Visitors are appreciated but the amount of visitors can often be overwhelming.  If you are the only visitor, assess the situation and maybe stay a little longer.

6. Drop off the patient and family members their favorite beverages. This saves them from having to run to vending machines and spending extra money.

7. The hospital provides meals for the patients but not the family member who stays with them. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital sells meal cards for family members for $5 each. Having these cards allows the caregiver to not have to leave their child in the room alone while they eat. Many hospitals sell gift certificates for the cafeterias. These are also helpful for family members staying with the patient.

8. Show up with a cup of coffee (or other favorite beverage for the family member) and insist on staying with the patient while the family member gets a break from the room.

9. Send balloons, cards and/or flowers to brighten the room.

10. Remember that the patient and immediate family members might be extremely stressed and worried about the patient’s condition. Even if you are upset or worried do not show it in front of the patient. Take a walk down the hall and pull yourself together. The patient doesn’t need to worry about their visitors too.

11. If a parent of young children is in the hospital or a child is in the hospital taking the parent away from the other children, see what you can do to help. Drop off dinner to the family members at home and offer rides to extracurricular activities and school.

12. In the words of my 12-year-old son: “Candy, bring candy, candy is always good.”

Do you have any suggestions to add?



Zombie Moms

It might not be the Walking Dead but I am surrounded by zombies. Although there are a few male zombies, they are mostly female zombies. Their hair is matted and ratty or pulled back in a messy ponytail. They have dark circles under their eyes. You can tell by looking at them that they don’t sleep. Their skin is dry. Their clothes are wrinkled and maybe even a little stained.

These aren’t your traditional zombies though. They aren’t going to try to bite you… well probably not. But they might just grunt when spoken to. They might snap sharply at others if agitated. And they will go crazy if they don’t like the way you treat their young.
These zombies are really moms (and some dads) who are staying at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center with their child. At the time I’m writing this, I have been at Children’s Hospital with my son for 48 hours. This will be our third night staying at the hospital. Joey screams out every few minutes in pain. It takes a lot to get him to sleep and he doesn’t sleep well. Doctors and nurses come in throughout all times of the day and night so no one sleeps more than an hour or two without interruption.

The third night...

The third night…

I find refuge by walking the halls, eating outside and walking the campus when someone is able to give me a break. I am lucky to have family and friends to help. I see other parents staying day in and day out with no one to relieve them. Their break consists of walking to the patient kitchen for a cup of coffee or juice.

My favorite place on Children's campus.

My favorite place on Children’s campus.

No matter if you get a break or not though, you can tell who the parents of the ill child are. You can tell by the hair, dark circles, wrinkled clothes and the constant look of worry. We see each other in the hall and give each other or nod or a smile to let the other know we understand. It’s an immediate bond. I don’t want to run from these zombies; I want to hug them.