Whenever my son is hospitalized, family/friends ask us what they can do or bring. In the heat of the moment, there is never anything I can think of that we want/need other than for our child to get better. I am sure I am not the only parent who has gone for hours without even thinking about eating or drinking until someone brings it up.
Just because we appear to be on top of things, doesn’t mean we are.
In past hospital stays, I received the kind offer of a bathroom break from a friend. She offered to come to sit with my son while I took care of myself for a minute.
What Parents Need/Want While Their Child is Hospitalized
That got me thinking about what kinds of things we need while we sit with our sick child in the hospital. It’s easy to say, “You need to take care of yourselves” but there are concrete ways in which you can actually help the family in need.
When I asked this question on social media, here is what some parents said:
- a cup of coffee
- a gift card for a nearby coffee shop (or the hospital’s coffee shop)
- a stack of magazines
- early morning breakfast
- waterless shampoo (especially for longer hospital stays)
- a middleman to check in with the family and update others on social media or through email (ask the family if they’d like this kind of thing first–some families are private and would rather you phone call close family members only)
- help with other children at home (especially meals)
Here are some additional things I think would be useful:
- an offer to drop-off or pick-up parents to and from the hospital
- water bottles
- a snack (granola or fruit bars, fruit, homemade cookies–things parents can nibble on as they gain some appetite throughout the day)
- a meal drop-off (if you cannot stay, or, if hospital parking is expensive as it is here in Montreal, a meal drop-off is so appreciated!)
- a soft, breathable, easily-washable blanket for the child (it’s nice to have something that isn’t so clinical-looking for the child to snuggle-up with)
- comfy socks for the patient and for parents
- organic/natural hand sanitizers or wipes (the hospital sanitizers do a number on our hands when used continuously)
- hand lotion (see above point)
- tissue packets
- lip balm for parents and for the child (the air in hospitals can also do a number on the lips)
- an inspirational book with short quotes or passages that parents can quickly read to glean some hope
- crossword, word search or Sudoku puzzle books for parents
- something quiet the child might be able to developmentally do when he is feeling a little better–like a coloring book and crayons or a storybook
- a shoulder to cry on (just say, “I will listen, not give you advice.”)
What to avoid bringing to the hospital:
- stuffed animals or toys that cannot be easily cleaned
- loud toys
- things the child might be allergic to (ask parents, if unsure)
As difficult as a hospital stay is for parents and child, I find the return home worse. When my son is discharged, it doesn’t mean he is fully recovered. I have to continue looking after him 24/7 until he heals.
In addition, I have to deal with the emotions and the overall exhaustion of an illness that sometimes spans over a matter of weeks.
Further, there is laundry to do (often exorbitant if the illness came with vomiting, etc.), meals to prepare, dishes to wash, and bathrooms to clean.
It’s important to know that once a family is home from the hospital, the ordeal isn’t over. Sometimes, it’s worse.
At home, I don’t have a nurse to watch my son when I need to use the bathroom. I don’t have other parents nearby to nod to and sigh with. I’m alone with my son, with the chores, and with my thoughts.
What Parents Need/Want After a Child’s Hospital Stay
I asked on social media what they’d like family and friends to know after a difficult hospital stay and what they’d appreciate them bringing or doing.
Here is what parents suggested:
- a meal
- groceries (at least the staples of milk, bread, butter, juice, etc.)
- some company
- help with laundry and dishes
- an offer to maintain the lawn or shovel snow from the walkway
- help with the other children
Here are some additional things that would be helpful after a hospital stay:
- offer to walk the dog or care for family pets
- organize for a catering service to deliver a meal
- a brief phone call or text
- an offer to supervise the child while the parent naps, showers, enjoys a bath, goes out for a walk, sits at the park, etc. (the brief distance from the child does wonders for the morale)
- an offer to watch the child while both parents get out for an hour to regroup and make decisions away from the child (a change in perspective makes decision-making more effective)
- organize a rotation with other family members/friends to visit/supervise for 1-2 hours each day for about a week or so (organize it, then let the family know–do the legwork for them, they will be grateful)
- a short, inspirational book
- inspirational music CD that the entire family can enjoy
- inspirational movie (it doesn’t need to be new–something lent out from your collection is super)
Whatever you do as family/friends, avoid offering advice at this time. Just be present. The family has a lot to sort out as it is.
What would you add to the lists? What kinds of things would you love for family/friends to do for you in your time of need? What about once your child is discharged from the hospital?