Before we list all the great holiday gift ideas for someone stuck in a hospital bed, let’s acknowledge that we should always spare our attention and gifts to loved ones in the hospital, no matter the time of year. But, of course, the holidays can be an especially lonely, so consider these gifts — suggested to Lifehacker by nurses and doctors — to make their experience a little better.
Get fake flowers, because they won’t see the real ones
The “fake” part here is important: Intensive care units almost never allow real flowers inside, as one nurse explained, so real ones get sent back to the reception desk to die and your loved one might not even get to see them. Opt for a fake arrangement instead, even if the person isn’t in the ICU. They might not always feel well enough to care for real flowers anyway, and taking care of flowers and plants isn’t the hospital staff’s job. But a faux bouquet requires no effort to brighten up a room.
Get a soft blanket that’s better than hospital ones
You may not be able to bring real flowers to someone in the hospital, but you can bring a blanket. Obviously, hospitals have their own blankets, and you might think that they’re special, sterilized,, and nonnegotiable…but check in with your loved one’s care team and you’re almost sure to find that they have no problem with you bringing a clean, cosy blanket to help your patient feel comfier.
“Comfy clothes are certainly nice to have,” said one doctor, because “you spend most of the time in a gown.” When bringing lounge clothes to your loved one, just make sure you keep the nature of their care in mind. They should be loose and stretchy, or at least easy to adjust so that the medical pros can do their jobs without worrying about complicated clothes.
Very long phone chargers
Being stuck in a hospital isn’t always planned, and sometimes there isn’t much time to gather the essentials. Bring a few chargers to the hospital, since it’s not like the patient can pop out to Walgreens and get their own. Just make sure that they’re long, since outlets near the bed might be hard to come by. It’ll go a long way in helping your loved one keep in contact with you — not to mention finding some entertainment when you leave.
Reading glasses and headphones
You don’t need to be told that a book makes a good gift for someone who’s stuck in a small room all day, but what about the glasses they might need to read it? Essentials like reading glasses, headphones, and hearing aid products might be better to give than books or movies. (Everyone brings the entertainment, but people tend to forget the things needed to enjoy it.) If you’re not sure what they might need, check with the person’s family or care team.
A hair brush
This came heavily recommended by nurses: While the hospital has lots of basic care products, a hair brush isn’t usually among them. Bring your loved one a brush, some hair ties or headbands, or maybe even a towel wrap for their hair.
Entertainment gift cards
Another gift that seems counterintuitive in these circumstances is gift cards, since, well, it’s not like your loved one is going to go out and use them or order any fun stuff from Amazon to their hospital room. Think bigger, though: Gift cards for Amazon Prime or iTunes can be used to rent or buy new movies, e-books, or other forms of entertainment that can be instantly delivered to a tablet or phone. It’s a better option than making an executive decision about what book or movie to bring them; having a little autonomy in such a regimented environment is a gift in itself.
You may want to bring in a bunch of food to offset the hospital cafeteria meals your friend has been getting, but do this with caution — they could be on some kind of special diet you don’t know about, or they could be staying in an area where fruit is not allowed (like a cancer treatment centre). While you can always ask their care team about it, you could also just bring in something with a lower likelihood of being controversial. Nurses recommend hard candies.
A lap desk for their hospital bed
Hospital gift shops have two main wares: Those little teddy-bear-and-balloon combos, and crossword puzzle books. Puzzles do come recommended by hospital personnel, but you probably already thought of bringing those in — and so did everyone else who’s going to show up with a gift. Make those puzzle books more useful by supplying a nice pen and a bed desk. The little swivel-y table your friend has access to on their bed may not be sturdy enough to press on when writing, and it might be full of medications and food. But a lap desk that is just for their entertainment is perfect. Plus, it’s something they can actually keep using when they get out.
If you’re more of a practical gift giver, this one is great: Someone in the hospital may get moved from room to room depending on the level of care they need, and they almost certainly didn’t remember to bring cloth bags to transport the gifts and other stuff they’ve accumulated. Bags are great for taking all that home when the stay is done, too. Just maybe put something nice inside, like a card or magazine, so it’s not the most boring gift of all time.
Organisers are boring but useful
Organisers also fall into the “boring but useful” category, but it’s worth picking up a few binders or folders to go along with your more exciting gifts. People in the hospital have a lot of paperwork to deal with. It might not be as fun as a pair of fuzzy socks or a big bag of hard candy, but giving them the tools to keep all their paperwork in order is a nice thing to do at a time when they’re probably stressed out.
The coolest grippy slippers you can find
Slippers aren’t just good for cosy comfort, but they can help keep your loved one safe while they’re walking around. Hospitals are clean, slick, sanitised places where grip is essential. Sure, they probably gave your friend or family member some grippy socks, but those can be scratchy. A pair of slippers with good traction is fashionable and functional.
Eye masks and ear plugs
Hospitals are full of bright lights and loud machines, which obviously make sleeping harder to do. An eye mask and ear plugs can help your loved one get more rest.
A grabber tool
Even if your loved one is fully mobile, why should they have to get up just to grab something far from their bed? And if they’re not fully mobile (like if they just had surgery), a grabber will be even handier. This is a winning gift that can save your loved one and their nursing team a lot of hassle.
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