13 Helpful Things to Bring Someone in the Hospital

When you find out a friend or family member is in the hospital, you may be wondering what you can do to help out or cheer them up.

One good place to start is by bringing them a gift, whether it’s a small, helpful item like an extension cord or something thoughtful, like your favorite book.

To get you started, we asked our community on Facebook to share the most thoughtful or helpful gifts they’ve received during an extended hospital stay. We hope their ideas spark some inspiration to bring your own friend or family member.

1. Good Tissues & Toilet Paper

A common grievance among hospital patients is the lack of quality tissues and toilet paper. This might not be your first thought when bringing a gift to the hospital, but you might be surprised at how nice a couple of boxes of high-quality, soft bathroom products can be.

“Silly but it made me smile and turned out to be the best gift. I gift this to my hospitalized loved ones now. It’s a roll of really soft toilet paper. Pamper yourself in the small ways to get through the days! It’s affordable and ended up being really appreciated.”

Mindy S. M.

“Soft toilet paper, box of soft tissues, a lamp for soft light. See a theme?” 

Laura W. B.

2. Food

As the saying goes: good food, good mood. Consider bringing your loved one’s favorite yummy goodies to bring a smile to their face. Just make sure to check with their family for any dietary restrictions, and confirm you can bring food into the hospital. 

“Bring food from restaurants and snacks, because the food at hospitals is [not so great].”

Mary P.

“My husband was in the hospital for 16 days. A friend brought me rolls of quarters for the vending machines. So thoughtful and useful.”

Rita R.

“I have food allergies and was starving because I couldn’t eat what was brought.  When my friend dropped off melon cubes, pasta salad, and fresh cucumber, I ate for 36 hours.”

Loretta L.

3. Quality Time

Hospital stays can get lonely. Be there for your loved one by checking up on them and spending time together, whatever way you can. If you are able, consider coming in for an in-person visit, or connect virtually with a phone call or video chat. Whichever way works best for you and your loved one, just being there can mean the world.

“Give them company. When my grandma was in a coma in the ICU, my best girlfriend drove out at like midnight to bring me knitting supplies, a book, etc. But the best part was that she sat with me for a bit and kept my mind off of things. Similarly, when my sister was in the PICU at Children’s right before she was trached, I stayed a night to give my parents a break.”

Lindsay C.

“In the 70’s I was in the hospital for two years with the odd weekend home. What I craved and needed the most was human companionship from family and friends. You can’t talk to flowers or a box of treats… When one is [in the hospital] long-term, visitors tend to space out after a few months.”

Jeanne K.

“After a serious surgery,  my husband was in for 12 days. What meant the most to us was the people who showed up, especially when we knew it was an inconvenience for them, but also thoughtful enough to keep visits short. They supported me as a caregiver and ate meals with me.”

Nancy S. K.

4. Books & Magazines

Reading can provide an escape from your own world into an entirely new one, which might be just what your loved one could use. You might gift a few of your favorite books, or something you think they might like. Coloring books, sketchbooks and journals can provide a creative outlet. Magazines also make a great option, being highly visual and fun to flip through.

“Magazine to browse. Couldn’t concentrate enough to read a book, but a magazine was perfect.”

Linda M. B.

“Books, food, more books!”

Jodi D.

5. Comfortable Clothes

As stated above, “soft” is a feeling that hospital patients crave. You can bring your loved one’s coziest clothes from home, or perhaps bring them something brand new and extra-soft: think robes, oversized sweatshirts, pajamas and socks. 

6. Gift Cards

Gift cards can be a simple way to offer financial support in a thoughtful way. You might bring a card for their favorite restaurant or coffee shop, gas stations, or for something fun like an activity once they get out of the hospital. 

“When my dad was hospitalized for 10 months after a spinal cord injury, we received everything from gift cards for food and gas to baseball tickets for the family to get out and about and even a gift card to make a teddy bear at Build-a-Bear workshop. Our network always checked our posts and sent wonderful cards and other things.”

Bethany D. A.

7. Extension Cord

What seems like a traditionally dull gift can actually be a huge asset in a hospital setting. Take the humble extension cord, for instance. Having an extra-long cord to get juice to your phone or tablet can be a game-changer, as can a power strip.

8. A Reminder of Home

Homesickness is a common feeling when in the hospital. Your loved one may be craving the comforts of home, whether that be a favorite blanket or their pet. If you aren’t sure what they’d enjoy, consider asking them what they miss most about home, and find a way to bring that feeling back to them.

“My 93 year old momma was in the hospital for a toe surgery. She always had one of her cats on her lap at home. She was frightened in the hospital and on pain meds. Anyway, I bought her a stuffed kitty. She never let go of it. She even talked to it and petted it when the drugs were playing with her mind. It comforted her.”

Sharon R.B.

“I was in the hospital after my brain tumor surgery during Christmas. The highlight was a miniature lighted Christmas tree. The nurses and staff would come in my room every night and ask if they could turn it on! That was the very best memory–it will always have a special place in our front window every Christmas!

Judy S.

9. Self-Care Items

Long stretches in the hospital don’t exactly make it easy to prioritize hygiene the way you’re used to. Offering self-care items like deodorant, dry shampoo, lip balm, lotion and shaving kits can make your loved one feel a bit more like themselves. 

“A friend bought me a special shampoo and conditioner. It’s something I will never forget because I was thought about, too.”

Lisa H. O.

“My step daughter brought me some fragrance-free lotion and a can of dry shampoo! Then she brushed it through my hair. It felt so good.”

Kathryn C.

“​​Anything to replace hospital issued clothing, bedding, toiletries.”

Kayla K.

10. Toys

Hospitals are not exactly the most entertaining place for children. If your loved one has children, or if their child is the one in the hospital, consider bringing toys for them to play with. This may include coloring books, stuffed animals and games.

For more ideas, read our post on how to entertain a child in the hospital.

11. Helping Out at Home

When you’re at the hospital, especially if you have frequent visits or stay for long periods of time, managing the day-to-day at home can become incredibly difficult. One very helpful thing you can do for your loved one is to find out where you can help out at home.

This could include household tasks like mowing the lawn, dog-sitting or watering the plants. Or it may include something bigger, like helping with childcare. The peace of mind knowing their household is taken care of can be one of the greatest gifts you can give.

“Taking care of things at home. We spend a lot of time in the hospital with my medically complex daughter. Knowing the grass is cut, plants watered, mail brought in, etc is the biggest gift.”

Deb L.

“​​When my son was 6 weeks old he was in the NICU. The best gift was the family who stepped up and took care of our 1 year old daughter so we could be with him. They cared for her and brought her to us at the hospital so we could see her without leaving him.”

Amber K.

Note: Amber also mentioned how helpful the Ronald McDonald House was with her experience. If your loved one doesn’t know about the Ronald McDonald House, consider connecting them as a potential support system.

“The hospital we were in partnered with the Ronald McDonald house and they were amazing as well. Our stay was sudden and since I rode in the ambulance with him I had nothing with me. They washed my clothes and gave me a shirt, sweatpants, underwear and socks to wear while we waited for family to arrive with clothing. They provided food, a place to shower, toothpaste and toothbrush at no cost to us. That was a nice blessing.”

12. Handwritten Cards

A handwritten card is so thoughtful. It brings back a sense of longevity and caring in our digital-first world that no text can fully replicate. Plus, cards are wonderful to save and look back on when a bit of brightness is needed.

“The cards really cheered me up.  My last hospital stay was my longest but because of Covid, I couldn’t have a single visitor.”

Janet N.

13. Care Package

Gifting a care package is a thoughtful and memorable way to support a friend or family member during their stay. There’s no wrong way to build a care package, but a good place to start is by gifting a mix of practical and thoughtful items. Consider trying out a few of the items suggested in this article!

“When I was a teenager I got hit by a car and broke my leg. My mom and dad’s friends went together and put a sunshine box together. It was all decorated real pretty with yellow everywhere and smiles on it. I would say there were probably 25 gifts in there. All wrapped singly and each day I got to open one but I can only open one every morning. That was really fun and also made the days go faster. I remember getting little puzzles to put together and coloring books. I got a jump rope for when I got out… I can’t remember everything but everything was so fun. Perhaps I couldn’t play with it each day, but it was nice to be able to open one everyday. I will never forget that.”

Diane B. D.

“Great coffee & food, cards, books, & my pillow!”

Diana D. K.

What Are Your Ideas?

What gifts have you given or received that made time in the hospital a little bit easier? Feel free to share your stories and ideas in the comments below.

Don’t Go Through Your Health Journey Alone

You can stay connected to friends and family, plan and coordinate meals, and experience love from any distance.

All of this is ready for you when you start your personal CaringBridge site, which is completely free of charge, ad-free, private and secure. Don’t spend another minute alone!

  • kat

    A large stuffed animal with a good weight to it. (The ones with beans in the bottom or ears are good). Being in the hospital can be scary or lonely even for adults, especially when you are alone for long periods of time. It can really help with anxiety to have something to hold on to.

  • Nichole

    When my dad was going through chemo and radiation treatments he would sit for long stretches with not much to do for fun. I decided to fill a backpack with some necessities and some entertaining prank stuff. One of the things I put in the bag was a remote controlled fart noise maker. My dad would put it in a different area each time and enjoy some laughs, and not only his own. Some nurses probably never caught on to his mischief.

  • Melissa Adams

    By far, the best act of kindness due to illness that was given to us was when my husband had a heart attack while cutting the grass. The parents of our daughter’s friend came and picked our daughter up and took her home with them. They brought her to the hospital, where she waited with me. They sat away from all the activity – just waited with their family until we knew the outcome. Once we knew he was going to be OK, they took her home with them and loved on her until her dad was back home. The dad also came to our house and finished cutting the lawn. They never once asked what they could do – they just knew what we needed.

  • Debbie Davenport

    Yes! We found that an extension cord to use with cell phone, i-pad and Kindle chargers was the most useful and necessary item to bring to the hospital with us, regardless of length of stay.
    Cardiac issues have caused my husband to endure numerous hospital stays through out the past decade. Extension cords for both patient and accompanying family member have proved to be a lifeline.
    Fortunately, every hospital involved has not had an issue with extension cords. Once admitted, every patient hospital bed experienced, has had the head back up to a wall with sufficient outlets. This was not true of overnights in ER hallways.

  • Carolyn Kinney

    This is a good list, however many hospitals do not allow extension cords because of the tripping hazard. A 10-foot charging cord for a mobile phone might be allowed.

  • Mike S

    I was hospitalized for 6 1/2 weeks at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota 5 hours from home at the beginning of the covid pandemic. My aunt made me a patchwork quilt and sent it to me with a couple of sharpies with instructions to have all of my caregivers sign it.

  • Mimi

    A soft and pretty bed jacket was so convenient to put on when having visitors in the hospital. Helps you feel a little more covered and presentable at a difficult time. Also, a footed double-sided mirror to put on the hospital tray to help put on makeup. A basket of lotion, flavored lip balm, dry shampoo, mints, eye drops, and some cute patterned non-slip below-the-ankle socks, all help to brighten up the hospital stay.

  • Darla Atkins

    I Appreciate seeing & learning. THANK YOU. Caring ridge

  • Vickie

    I was in the hospital for surgery and rehab for 3 weeks. The iced tea was terrible, my husband would bring tea to me everyday! It tasted so good! Something so simple was so good!

  • Lorrie

    The thoughts suggested here, from a frequent flyer to hospitals is like gold.
    Yes soft anything,a note pad. Yes plugs for your phone and tablet. Long cord is like heaven. A comb, brush. A good toothbrush… These all mean the world to a person.

  • Evon P

    Steno pad with pens to keep a journal of the day’s events including treatments , health professional visits, visitors, etc .Steno pads are always charged and ready to go unlike electronic devices.

    Breath mints, tic tacs, etc. Eye shades and ear plugs. If non allergic a lavender scented eye shades are perfect.

    If it is an extended stay a permanent marker is useful for personal items.

    Soft colorful pillowcases. Just make sure they are marked.

  • Maggie H.

    I suggest to everyone who goes into the hospital that they should take their pillow from home. Hospital pillows are like sleeping on bricks!! Make sure your pillowcase has a pattern or flowers or something to distinguish it from hospital linen

  • Ruth B

    My family brought me a pretty journal. As a patient you are kinda in and out of things. Each day I wrote progress, gifts, calls, and visitors for others to read also. I still read it every so often.

  • Alison Willis

    When my husband was in hospital someone gifted me a prepaid hospital parking pass. Totally appreciated!

  • Susan B.

    A small stuffed animal. It’s just sweet, regardless of the patient’s age, especially for a surgical patient. When the slightest cough can be painful, having a pillow-like thing to press against you, is a great gift.

  • Joyce Peterson

    thanks this was very helpful! I remember needing my own pillow from home since the hospital ones are hard and rubbery–yuck! Also, have someone bring your boombox and CDs for comforting music to play for the patient and you. Also photos of the patient when they are healthy and enjoying life tells the nurses and doctors what your loved one is really like. Any homemade treats are really welcome too.

  • Jan

    Breath mints

    brush, hair ties

    Picture of family

    Phone numbers

    Phone charger

    Reading glasses

    Stuffed animal (all ages)

    Magazines

    Mylar balloon (last longer than flowers)

    Before COVID make a short visit- hopefully visiting policies will lighten so more people can visit

    Driving family member to visit- eliminates parking fees

    Zip down sweatshirt

  • Jen White

    I most appreciated receiving a colorful pillow case when in the hospital!

  • Harriet Flehinger

    I always bring hospitalized patients a pad and pen. It’s amazing the things you want to remember, and need to note down. The era of cell phones in hospital rooms has helped a bit, but memos on your phone are still not immediately accessible enough. A pad and pen is simpler.

  • Terri C.

    After a very major back surgery, I was in rehab for nearly a month. I got very tired of trying to sleep in a hospital bed all night, so after I was a bit better, I was allowed to sleep in a recliner when I needed to. I could never seem to be warm enough as it was very cold in my room. But my occupational therapist went to a closet somewhere and got me a handmade lightweight quilt to sleep with and take home with me. It was the best gift ever, and I owe a debt of gratitude to whoever made and donated them. The second-best gift was a bag containing nuts and other snacks, a magazine or two, and some puzzle books and other fun things. There were enough things in there to keep me busy for the whole time I was in rehab.

  • Mark Francis

    Better check with the hospital about the extension cord. The fire code prevents extension cords in most healthcare facilities.

  • Dlbinoc

    These are some great ideas, The power strip and extension cord especially, when I was in a rehab place after a stroke a friend brought me a big, colorful, fuzzy blanket. That was the best gift.

  • Lee Ann Richardson

    Quart and gallon freezer Ziploc bags WITH SLIDERS made my rehab times (yes, multiple times) simpler. That one tiny bedside drawer is virtually a pit of despair without tools for organization.

    You might fill these with small pair of scissors and a variety of writing implements, Post-Its, large paperclips, thank you cards with stamps, a note pad, nail clippers & emery boards, dental floss/picks.

    If no dietary restrictions, call ahead & ask for a fast food craving. Taco Bell nachos were manna from Heaven! (Thanks, Joyce!)

    Been there. Appreciated thoughtfulness.

  • Cindy B

    When I was in a serious car accident my friends were amazing! The best gift in the hospital was a headset because I could hear people moaning & screaming in pain down the hall. At home, friends came to clean my house & brought their children to play with my son. A food chain from Church brought meals for a month! To this day 35 years later, I tear up remembering their kindness ❤️

  • Alice F

    Rosary

    Stamps

    Paper & envelopes

    Small notebook

    Ballpoint pin

  • Liz Coyle

    In 2020, I launched Quiltlove (www.givequiltlove.com) after a friend’s daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. I would love to add Quiltlove to this thoughtful gift guide, with your permission.

    Quiltlove quilts feature drawings and handwritten messages created by the recipient’s support network. Our quilts are designed to be given as group gifts and are a wonderful way to literally wrap a loved one in support.

    They are all custom made and such a meaningful gift to give someone facing an extended hospital stay or going through chemotherapy.

    Thank you!