Selecting a gift for someone who is sick and/or hospitalized can depend on how sick the person is, and the reason for, and length of, hospitalization.
Before selecting a gift, keep in mind that anything brought into or out of a hospital (or sick room) should be something that can be effectively surface-cleaned or machine-washed. Also, anything being used by the patient should be small enough in size and number to be kept in one place, rather than being moved “all over” the room. Nosocomial infections (infections that have nothing to do with the original reason a person is hospitalized, and that can be deadly, particularly to the compromised patient, are a raging problem in many hospitals. A certain level of awareness of not introducing new germs to patients who may be particularly at risk, and of not inviting hospital germs to ride home on patients belongings, is always the wisest thing to do. Something like stuffed animals may be adorable and may make a patient smile, but they don’t make the best gift for the hospitalized patient (particularly if his immune system is already compromised).
Something else to keep in mind that gifts should not get in the way of hospital staff.
It can seem instinctive to bring someone a magazine, newspaper, or book of crossword puzzles. Much of the time, however, the recipient of the gift may have no interest in reading, or even the ability to concentrate enough to read. Someone who is scared to death over upcoming surgery, or over the results of some diagnostic tests, may not be able to concentrate on reading (or care much about it, even if he can concentrate). New mothers often have only their babies on their mind, and new mothers can actually be kept quite occupied during their hospital stays. A particularly ill and/or medicated patient may not be able to read. Elderly patients often suffer from at least some depression associated with any long-term medical issues; and that can cause loss of interest in activities such as reading. For these reasons, it’s always best to ask the patient about his interest in having something to read rather than assuming reading will make a great gift for anyone but the patient who broke an ankle when he fell he ice.
Flowers usually make a nice gift when the individual is neither allergic nor in a special section of a hospital (intensive care, for example). Flowers don’t need to be expensive arrangements from the florist. In fact, sometimes those can require a little more water, pulling of dead flowers, and space than may be ideal. A simple, inexpensive, vase (not all vases make their way home) with a few cheerful flowers takes up less space, requires little care, and can be kept right on the sliding tray-table. Sometimes a great arrangement from the florist may be most appreciated as a “welcome-home” gift. Of course, hospital window ledges do invite (and sometimes beg for) a nice, big, floral arrangement.
Depending on whether the gift recipient has special dietary restrictions (or is advised against eating anything other than a planned diet), food or a special drink can be a welcome (and inexpensive) thing to bring. A coffee from the patient’s favorite coffee shop, or the person’s favorite shake, can brighten his day. Hospitals are known for having bad coffee, and the hospitals I’ve encountered (as a patient or visitor) have served tea in unbreakable mugs that retain the smell of coffee from previous uses. If there is a way for the patient to heat water, disposable “hot” cups with covers, a box of high-quality (or their preferred brand of) tea bags, and even bottled water may be particularly appreciated.
Provided the individual is allowed to snack, individually wrapped snacks like cheese crackers, wheat crackers, or any snack that will curb hunger between scheduled meals, can be nice. Well washed, dried, and wrapped fruit usually makes a good gift. It may be more helpful if you include a knife, corer, and a few paper plates. Small, individual, servings of diced fruit, pudding, or custards can make an easy treat. Disposable spoons prove useful with these kinds of snacks.
Patients who complain of hospital food may appreciate a home-made version of their favorite meal, packed in a disposable, covered, dish with a bow on the cover. A tall, filled, Thermos bottle may be right for patients who have trouble getting their favorite hot beverage throughout the day or evening.
Being cold can be an issue for hospital patients, as well as for many people who are home but not able to be up and moving around. Hospital patients may appreciate a warm robe or slippers. At home patients may appreciate the same, or else a nice throw or pretty blanket or comforter.
A few new undershirts (for both men and women) can add a layer of warmth. There are pretty ones available for women.
Even for patients for whom being cold isn’t the problem, gifts of an extra robe, slippers, or sleep wear can be appreciated when the hospital stay is a long one. During long confinements some people prefer not to live in sleep wear. Some people may prefer comfy “hanging around” clothes. Women may appreciate a kaftan or a robe that isn’t quite as “sleepwear-ish” as some are. Clothing that may make life easier can be useful. Depending on the person’s medical condition, arm holes, buttons or snaps on fronts or backs, baggy legs, spacious sleeves, or comfortable waistbands can all be factors.
People who are, or will be, confined (in the hospital or at home) for a long stretch of time may appreciate gifts that will help them “be in touch with the world”. This could be as simple an inexpensive radio with head set or ear buds (not everyone likes ear buds) or as expensive as a laptop computer. A prepaid, pre-loaded, cell phone could offer a little extra calling time to someone for whom the cost of calls limits phone contact with friends and friends. Even a relatively inexpensive Mp3 player may offer a FM radio, so the person can have a handy way to listen to his own kind of music but also listen to the radio. AM radio that offers lots of talk programs and news, however, should not be overlooked. Personal CD- and DVD-players should not be overlooked for the person who is at home and ill.
Speaking of CD’s and DVD’s, provided the person has the player, the gift of their favorite music or type of music can be perfect. Online movie services make a good gift for some folks.
Thought should be paid to the fact that items may be stolen from hospital rooms. When patients are too sick to pay attention, or will be brought out of their rooms for tests or surgery it’s always better to wait until such activities are over before bringing some types of gifts. At the same time, selecting a very inexpensive version of something like a CD player means not worrying as much about it being stolen. People confined at home, however, don’t have this concern.
Elderly patients not suffering from Alzheimers Disease can still be at risk of “slipping a little” into depression, isolation, and even some mental decline if they don’t have things around them to help them feel a little more “grounded” (in terms of not having the hours and days just turn into “one big blur”). Making sure an elderly person with long-term, confining, medical issues has things like a radio, television, calendar, and visible clock are important. A pretty clock with an easy-to-see face or a compact clock radio can make nice gifts.
Children, of course, always benefit with activities they can do even if they can’t be up, out, and running around. Coloring books, puzzles, all kinds of paper or pencils, or hand-held games (electronic or “plain old”) can make great gifts.
Whether or not a child of school age is sick, never underestimate what a few additions to a set of Hot Wheels cars, a couple of action figures, or a small doll can do for a child. Tray-table-sized dolls, action figures, or cars (and maybe a case to keep them in) make good gifts for children. Also tray-table sized are the smaller sets of Lego blocks or other blocks, that c
ontain only a handful of blocks but still offer quite a few building possibilities for a child.
Children aren’t the only ones who enjoy activities that don’t require being up and moving around. Teens and adults may have hobbies, such as scrap-booking, knitting, crocheting, or drawing. Even the non-craft-inclined may appreciate lined paper (for list-making), writing paper and stamps, or even the right hand-held game. Knowing whether a person is more inclined toward word games, puzzles or action games helps. Asking is one way to find out. One way to get ideas is to go to your own cell phone service provider’s site and look at available, downloadable, cell phone games. They’re usually categorized and may offer ideas on types of games the patient may like.
Personal products or the patient’s favorite scent can make great gifts. A new toothbrush, someone’s own brand of deodorant or soap, nail-care sets, pedicure sets, travel sets with travel-size personal items in a nice case, or particularly nice skin-care set may be appreciated. A mini-size spray bottle of the the person’s favorite scent is usually welcome.
Depending on the woman or girl and her hairstyle, things like head bands or pretty ponytail can holders can help make up for the fact that she may not be able to do her hair the way she’d like. Soft, sleepable, curlers in a pretty case may be what some women/girls would like. Since hospitals don’t usually offer electrical outlets for patient use, a battery-operated curling iron and a package of batteries may be perfect for a girl/woman confined for more than few days.
Although “medical-condition-related” items can seem inappropriate as gifts (for example, a tool that would help a patient with arthritis put his socks on), this can depend on whether buying such practical, “medical-condition-related” items is easily affordable for the individual or not. Some such gifts are less “clinical” than others. A massage pillow for the person who complains of neck stiffness can seem more appropriate than, say, a blood pressure kit.
Nice little items that are simply pleasant for the person to look at can make wonderful gifts (as long the person hasn’t been given several of these items by several different people). A pretty, cheerful, or whimsical “knickknacky” item can be nice on a tray-table. Women may enjoy a pretty little knickknack or a cute, miniature, animal. Men may like a pen or paperweight with their favorite sports logo or a small ceramic version of their favorite animal. Miniature picture frames containing photos of loved ones, miniature vases or clay flower pots with miniature flowers or plants can be unobtrusive and non-allergenic.
When there’s the chance someone may wake to a darkened room at night and be unable to quickly get to the light switch, a good gift may be a nice flashlight or a small, stand-alone, battery-operated, light of some sort. Nurses turn off hospital room lights at night. Power failures can occur when sick people are at home.
People who can’t wear their eyeglasses may appreciate items that will magnify. People who can’t get up to turn off their home electronics may appreciate a remote control unit that will control several devices.
A helium balloon or two can brighten a hospital room for children or adults; but, of course, how appropriate balloons are can depend on the type of illness the patient has.
Pictures of what has been going on at home, at school, or in the grandchildren’s life can break up a day. Putting duplicate copies in a pretty little book lets the patient keep the pictures, which is even nicer.
A hat box (or other pretty box) filled with cards or notes (or anything else classmates or co-workers think will be nice, funny, or entertaining) can offer quite a few things to look at on a boring evening.
People who are very sick and who are also religious people may appreciate religious items, such as small cards with prayers on them or religious medals.
Sometimes, too, when selecting a gift for someone who is sick and/or the hospital, it is also important to keep in mind that the person is still the same person he’s always been. If he’s always liked a certain baseball or football team, he probably still likes them. If he’s always liked mountains or oceans or trees or lilacs, he probably still likes them. People’s favorite colors remain their favorite colors. Keeping these things in mind can help you select a gift that will be just right for “the person your loved one or friend has always been” – and not necessarily just the patient he has become.