How to Help When Someone is in the Hospital Hero Label

How to Help When Someone is in the Hospital

We're often struck by an urge to "do something" when we hear about a friend, colleague or family member who is in the hospital. Unfortunately, that urge can turn to inaction when we're not sure what's permissible or acceptable to do. Simply saying, "let me know if I can help," has good intentions, but isn't very effective. It puts the burden of coming up with something that would be helpful and communicating it on to either the person who is in the hospital or the friend and family helping with their care. Instead, by being specific in your suggestion of assistance the person you're making the offer to can simply say, "Yes that would be great!" or "Thank you for offering but at this time it's best if I (we) say no." (which is okay! Not everyone needs a meal train created, book delivery, or someone to help shuttle the kids to and from school.) Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Offer to bring in crosswords, puzzle books (word find, Sudoku, etc.), reading books, a deck of cards, a device to stream a movie or TV on, or the patient's favorite board game
  • Offer to do the laundry for the patient or the other people in their household
  • Make a special meal to bring to the patient, if allowed. When offering to bring food, it's best to check in with the patient's point person, or a nurse or doctor to make sure the meal or item is okay for them to consume now. While some comfort food is indeed comforting, not all of it is right for the patient at this time.Macaroni and pepperoni casserole with basil sprinkled on top sits in a cream colored baking dish


  • Bring food or treats to the nursing station to show appreciation to the staff. Don't forget the staff beyond the nurses in the patient's department. There are those who draw blood, deliver meals and other tasks where they may interact with the patient daily but because they aren't members of the nursing staff on this floor/team wouldn't receive the food or treat brought to the nurses. Remember too, that if you really want to show your appreciation for the team taking care of you (or a patient) writing to their superiors about what an excellent experience you've had can be one of the best gifts you can give. 
  • Offer to run errands or handle chores such as lawn care or snow removal for the patient

  • Offer to help with child care either for those helping the patient or the patient themselves. School, daycare and after-school activity pick up and drop off can be a lifesaver during difficult times.

  • Flowers   can be a wonderful way to brighten spirits and freshen up a hospital room, but some patients can't have them for health reasons. Check first to see if they are allowed, and if so, skip any that spread pollen.


 If your offer is declined - which happens - it's okay to make another later on or to ask if there is something you're not thinking of that would be welcome, but starting with a specific offer is a considerate way to go.