Laura has a BSc in Adult nursing. She also has 17 years experience working in healthcare.
Staying in a hospital can be a trying experience regardless of the severity of one's affliction. Sleeping in a strange bed in a sterile room without the comforts of home is unnerving, so when our loved ones are hospitalized, it's important that we support them as best we can. One way to do this is to give them a thoughtful gift.
A gift for someone staying in a hospital should either help make their stay more pleasant or re-create some of the comforts of home. As a practicing nurse and longtime healthcare professional, I hope to share some insights as to what types of gifts are most impactful for individuals receiving inpatient hospital care.
What Should You Give a Hospitalized Friend or Family Member?
- Personal Hygiene Products
- Nail Care From a Mobile Beautician
- Haircut From a Mobile Hairdresser
- Ear Plugs, Eye Masks and Pillows
- Photo Albums
- Hospital TV Credit
- Cuddly Toys
- Good Food
- A Phone Call
1. Personal Hygiene Products
A lot of people come into the hospital with absolutely nothing with them, which is understandable—especially in an emergency situation. Packing an overnight bag is often the last thing on a person's mind when they need urgent medical attention. However, you would be surprised how many patients go through their entire hospital stay without access to personal hygiene products.
Relatives tend to assume that toiletries are provided by the hospital. While this is often the case, hospital hygiene products tend to be basic, poor quality and very drying for the skin.
When a person is unwell, they may lack the strength or motivation to groom themselves, especially if the products at their disposal are not particularly appealing. When hospitalized individuals receive luxury toiletry items, however, washing may become less of a chore and more of a pleasurable experience.
Frequently Requested Hygiene Products
Nail Grooming Kit
2. Nail Care From a Mobile Beautician
Some hospitals have a policy in place that forbids hospital workers from cutting patients' nails. This is because nail-cutting can be risky for patients with diabetes or other conditions with which accidental cuts might cause long term complications (Öztürk et al., 2018).
If your loved one has been in the hospital for a long time, perhaps you could treat them to a professional manicure or pedicure. Mobile beauticians in your area will likely be happy to perform their services for someone in the hospital. Be sure to check with your loved one's ward manager before booking an appointment to ensure this is appropriate.
Thinking of Buying Flowers? Think Again.
Flowers are a popular gift for people who need cheering up, but don't bring them into a hospital environment. They are considered an infection-control risk and could spell trouble for people with weakened immune systems.
3. A Haircut From a Mobile Hairdresser
One of the biggest complaints I hear from patients is that hospitals usually do not have hairdressing facilities on-site. While some hospitals may provide this service, a lot of them do not. This is problematic for people who are too unwell to leave the hospital and visit a hair salon or barber.
While care staff may be responsible for washing hair, they are not trained to cut or style it. If your loved one's ward manager allows it, consider hiring a mobile hairdresser to style your loved one's locks. A good haircut can really boost someone's self-confidence, especially if they have been in the hospital for a long time.
4. Ear Plugs, Eye Masks and Pillows
Evidence suggests that sleep is important for health, wellbeing and disease-prevention (Barnes, 2015). Unfortunately, hospitals can be noisy places. People snore, call-bells ring and nursing staff deal with new ward admissions constantly. All of these things are going on in the background while your loved one is trying to get some desperately needed rest.
Why not buy them some quality earplugs to help them get a good night's sleep? Eye masks are also useful since the lighting in hospitals can be bright and harsh. Some facilities may also have a shortage of pillows, which can be problematic for people who need extra neck support. A quality memory-foam neck or head pillow may help them sleep more comfortably.
5. Photo Albums
If your loved one suffers from a cognitive impairment or simply misses home, photos can be a great way to cheer them up. Having a photo book on-hand can also aid staff in comforting and supporting your loved one should they become scared or agitated. This often happens in the middle of the night when phone calls to friends and relatives are seldom an option.
6. Hospital TV Credit
Hospitals often have televisions that patients can use on a pay-as-you-go basis. Some of these services can be expensive, especially if a person stays in the hospital for several weeks. Buying your loved one some credit for their TV may not be the most exciting gift, but it will certainly help keep them entertained on those dull days.
7. Cuddly Toys
Plush toys and stuffed animals are not just for children. While clutter is generally avoided in hospital environments, I often meet patients who find small cuddly toys comforting in times of distress. In addition to being physically comforting, stuffed animals can remind patients of favourite pets or loving friends and family.
Stuffed toys also make great presents for people suffering from dementia. Patients with dementia may be inclined to fiddle with things, so stuffed animals or "fiddle blankets" can help keep their hands occupied.
Hospital inpatients are encouraged to get dressed in their own clothes for rehabilitation purposes. Patients who get too used to wearing hospital gowns day and night often have a more difficult time re-establishing routines and returning home. This phenomenon is comically referred to as "pyjama paralysis," because it causes people to become sedentary and demotivated (Oliver, 2017).
If you want to buy clothes for your loved one, consider comfort and practicality before style (especially if they require physiotherapy before discharge), but do be sure to get them something that will look great. Like a haircut, a new outfit can be a good confidence-booster for someone who has been feeling low.
9. Good Food
Evidence suggests that people who are injured or ill may require more calories than those who are not because their bodies need additional energy to get better. Unfortunately, hospital food does not have the best reputation and often results in poor appetites and the refusal of meals.
Fortunately, many wards have a patient fridge, which gives loved ones the option to bring tasty food in if they want to. Healthy, delicious finger foods like hummus and crackers are always a great choice, but if your loved one is refusing to eat, some chocolate could also be helpful.
Before purchasing any foods, be sure to seek advice from your medical team to determine whether there is anything your loved one shouldn't be consuming in their present condition.
10. A Phone Call
Some hospital wards keep a phone with its own direct number beside each bed. While there is usually a cost associated with calling these numbers, your loved one will definitely appreciate hearing from you without having to leave their bed. If you don't know their direct phone number, you can always call the ward directly for details.
- Barnes, C.M. and Drak, C.L. (2015) 'Prioritizing Sleep Health: Public Health Policy Recommendations', Perspectives on Psychological Science, vol. 10, no. 6, pp. 733-737.
- Oliver, D. (2017) 'David Oliver: Fighting pyjama paralysis in hospital wards', BMJ Acute Perspective, vol 357.
- Öztürk, A.M., Uysal, S., Yıldırım Şımşır, I., Hüngör, H. and Işıkgöz Taşbakan, M. (2018) 'Hand infection in patients with diabetes: a series of 17 cases and a pooled analysis of the literature', Turkish Journal of Medical Sciences, vol. 48, no. 2, pp. 372-377.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.