I also thought about how in the past I had no idea what to do for people in the hospital. I always had a fear of intruding or being a bother to someone. Mostly I felt like nothing I did would really matter.
After this experience, I can tell you everything matters! This has been an eye-opener for me and I will no longer think I cannot help in some way.
My purpose for this post is to give different ideas on how to help when a friend or loved one is hospitalized. Whether you are close friends with the patient or just a co-worker, here are some ways you can help.
- Make sure the spouse has a ride to the hospital. In the midst of chaos and crisis the spouse doesn't need to be driving.
- In those first hours be there--physically present--for support. Even if they don't allow you in the room, wait in the waiting room. It means the world to someone to know people are there with them and they are not alone.
My in-laws were there as soon as they could be as well. They stayed at the hospital that night until very late. They sat with Kerry and me, and made sure everything was well taken care of.
Kerry spent the majority of the first day in the ER triage. Only two people could be in there at a time. I didn't want to leave his side, which left my mom and in-laws taking turns sitting in there with me. I was so happy to know they were all there.
- If you are close with the person, offer to care for their children. Every parent, especially moms are burdened about what to do with their kids during a crisis.
- If you are keeping their children, really care for them. Also, send the parents text updates with pictures letting them know how well the kids are doing. This continues to put the parent's minds at ease.
- If the hospital stay is going to be a few days or longer, offer to keep the children at their own house. Routine is what most children, especially small ones need. If you can keep them in their environment it helps alleviate some of the stress for the kids and parents.
- If you live close to the hospital, offer your home for a shower, a good night's sleep, laundry, a home-cooked meal. Offer it, and demand they know you are serious. Bring them a key if you have to. They may not take you up on it, but it's something they need to know is an option.
- If you are close family/friend offer to stay for a few hours or an entire night with the one hospitalized so the spouse can get out of the hospital for a few hours or to sleep in a real bed for the night.
- Offer to help out getting the kids to activities. Do your kids go to ballet, soccer, karate, etc. together? Let them know you would gladly come get them for the activity and take them back home afterwards.
- Call or text the spouse and ask what they would like from a specific coffee shop, restaurant, or convienince store. It's important to say directly, "I'm headed to Starbucks and then to see you at the hospital...what coffee is your favorite and what kind of muffin do you like?" If you just say, "Can I get you something?" or "Do you need anything?" they will not take you up on it most of the time. People feel burdened about being a burden to others, don't leave it up to them to reach out.
Samantha, a friend I haven't seen since college saw my Facebook and immediately messaged me asking what she could do. She actually got specific asking what she could bring me from Starbucks. I was very hungry and needing caffeine. I took her up on her offer. She and her beautiful daughter brought it by and simply dropped it off so they wouldn't wake Kerry. She also continued to check on me and see if I needed anything else during our stay.
- Show up with coffee or food without any notice.
Our friends Randy and Shawna brought cookies for our kids to have when they came to visit their daddy in the hospital.
My mom bought snacks and left them for me.
- If you are healthy (this is important, don't show up sick) and able, go visit them in the hospital. Hospital stays get lonely, and when people come visit you know they genuinely care about you. It's nice to see loving faces and have conversations with people other than the nurses and doctors. It is a welcomed distraction from the boredom and depression of being closed off in a hospital room.
- Give them gift cards or money for meals, gas, vending machines, walmart, target, etc.
- If you aren't able to visit them in the hospital make sure to call, text, or reach out to them on social media each day. It will not annoy them. They may not answer you right away or somedays at all, but it will mean the world to them that you are checking in on them.
My niece Deana, our mutual friend Jennifer, and I have stayed in an ongoing group text for the past year or so. We are usually talking about things our kids do to drive us crazy or sending funny articles or memes to each other. We are always sarcastic and love to make each other laugh. During this time, they continued to send me texts. They were serious about prayers and concern for Kerry, but also continued to me make me laugh. I needed to laugh. I told them I would always need that. I appreciate they didn't go away for those few days in fear of what to say, what not to say.
My friends Danielle and Kelly also sent me texts and made me laugh daily.
- Offer to bring clothes, blankets, and pillows from their home
Our pastor's wife is a nurse at the hospital. She came by a few times to see what we needed. One night she took Kerry's blanket and pillow home, washed it, and brought it back. It actually made him feel better once he smelled it. I remember him saying, "Gosh, this smells so good and clean." Those little things matter.
- Pray, genuinely pray for the person hospitalized and their family.
Lastly here are some things people need during their stay and may not have with them. I happened to have most of these, but it made me take note of what people might need in the future.
- A blanket
- A sweatshirt or hoodie (hospitals are freezing)
- Warm socks
- Magazines or books
- Toothbrush and Paste
- Shampoo, Conditioner, Body Wash, Lotion
- Dry Shampoo (I didn't think of this until later, but it would've been nice to have)
- Razor and Shaving Cream
- Mints, Gum, Hard Candy
- Bottled Water
- Hand Sanitizer
- Change for vending machines
- Contacts case and saline
- Good toilet paper!
- iTunes, Kindle, Nook gift card (if you know what device they have)
- Phone charger