I have spent a lot of time in hospital rooms and waiting rooms, and they are not delightful places to be in the best of cases (like waiting for new babies to arrive.) A particular situation (not mine) started me thinking about how to help shore up families who are waiting in the worst of cases. If it is not possible to be present to physically support someone, here is a short list of ideas of how to help from afar.
Gift Shop Goodie Baskets
Most hospital gift shops will accommodate you from afar. If you call in and let them know that you’d like to do a goody bag /basket for family members, they will usually help you. You give them an amount, and they fill your order to that amount, then deliver the goodies to the family. Some things to put in the basket:
- Snacks–sometimes, the family doesn’t want to go even as far as the cafeteria. Just having a bag of chips or a Snicker bar can make a difference.
- Bottled water or other drinks.
- Chewing gum/mints.
- Magazines/puzzle books/newspapers
- Socks–it gets cold in hospitals! And the family might have shown up in flip flops, and their toes might be freezing.
- Coloring books/crayons for kids
If you know what a family likes, you can have food ordered to be delivered to the waiting room–just a pizza could be nice. I wouldn’t send food to a patient’s room because you never know how restricted their diets are, but if a family is corralled in the ICU waiting room for days on end, it’s a nice touch. Remember to tell the delivery service that you will need plates/forks/napkins.
If you know families are going to spending days/weeks/longer in the hospital, mailing a card to the patient room or the waiting room (attn: [Your Waiting Family's Name/Patient Name]) is a nice break in routine. We all like to get good snail mail because it’s so rare these days. Imagine how it would brighten your day to get an unexpected card or care package delivered to you as you wait in the hospital.
Waiting is painful in and of itself. Waiting with tiny breaks in the agonizing monotony is a small bit easier. Small acts of kindness make the biggest impact on people who are dealing with the life or death needs of their loved ones.