I’m a hospital pro. I’ve had a gazillion and a half visits to the hospital – both long and short. Inpatient and out patient.
I’ve learned a few things about what I need when I go. What the things I always forget are.
When a coworker was diagnosed with breast cancer, I thought it might be nice to make her a hospital care package. So, like everyone else, I took to Pinterest looking for cancer care packages and chemo care packages.
Yikes. Some of them are nice, but there are an awful lot of them that either couldn’t be given in a hospital, could go very, very wrong or could make a patient feel even worse.
As a patient, there have been too many times that I haven’t been allowed to eat while waiting for a procedure and a pile of treats taunted me from across the room. Or days when I wasn’t allowed to eat anything I wanted. Or the worst days when drugs changed my tastebuds and things I normally loved tasted awful.
One day, I’ll write a post about what I keep in my hospital go-bag, but the main ones are in the hospital essentials section. All the other items depend on the type of medical situation.
What to put in a hospital care package
Start with a great bag, the one I used is a design of my own. You can find them with designs of all sorts and in a variety of sizes. Sometimes I find a bag and work backwards to fill it and sometimes I start with the stuff and try to find a bag to hold it all. Threadless, Paper Source and Art of Where have some great ones.
These thoughtful items are often forgotten by patients when they go to the hospital and can make a huge difference in their quality of life.
- Extra-long charging cable iPhone and Android cables come in 6ft and 10ft varieties, and I would recommend the longer the cable the better. Plugs are never near the bed and pulling your charging cable out of the wall when you are stuck in a bed is no good.
- Spare USB charger This goes with the extra long cable, but a spare USB plug is always useful. Whether it ends up being a spare for a guest or making it so multiple patient devices can charge at once, this won’t go unused.
- Dry shampoo The first time I ever used dry shampoo it was something the hospital gave me after I had been in for several days. These days, the brands at the drug store are way better than the hospital kind and, you don’t have to wait for a nurse to bring some.
- Wipes Sometimes you can’t get out of bed. Sometimes you don’t feel like it. Sometimes meds make your skin just feel gross. Disposable face wipes are a great way to feel refreshed when you are stuck in bed. Also, nobody likes being gross, and flushable wipes or lady parts wipes are a great way to freshen up other parts of your body that a face wipe wouldn’t be so great for.
Level up (depending on the patient/situation)
Add some fun stuff to make the care package feel special and reflect both the patient and the giver.
- Socks The cuddlier the better.
- Book of short stories Meds can make you loopy. TV can be terrible and repetitive (if you can even watch it). Short stories or comics are easier to read because they don’t require a long attention span.
- Lip balm Air can be dry, and you can’t always get out of bed to drink when you want. Lip balm can be a lifesaver.
- Lotion That same dry air can do a number to skin and hospital lotion can leave a lot to be desired.
- Face masks/pampering stupplies These are more for people who will be recovering at home, because they’re impractical in the hospital. But when you want to do more and your body needs time to heal, taking time to pamper yourself can be completely refreshing.
- iTunes/GooglePlay/Amazon Gift Card Amazon and GooglePlay are device agnostic, but if someone has an iPhone, an iTunes gift card is great. This lets the patient get books, movies, music and games.
- Blankets Hospital blankets are rarely warm enough and they’re not particularly cuddly. Just make sure that it is clean and new so you aren’t introducing any germs or parasites into the hospital.
- Coloring books & puzzles These can keep a patient entertained in the hospital when the TV gets annoying or they are starting to get a little antsy just being there. These items can be worked on in short bursts or for hours on end.
- A favorite thing One of the best gifts I ever got while in the hospital was an amazing lip gloss. Not that I was going to wear it while I was there, but it brightened my day and gave me something to look forward to.
Well-intentioned gifts that you should check before giving
These items are well-intentioned, but can actually be off limits or make a patient feel worse. If you want to include any of these, check with the patient or their immediate family to see if these items are appropriate. If you’re unsure, just skip these.
- Food/Beverages Many patients are on restricted or controlled diets, or even worse unpredictable changes in taste.
- PJs/Robe/Wrap Hospital gowns open in the back and don’t have long sleeves. A robe can help keep a patient warm and is easy to remove. However, sometimes patients aren’t allowed pants or a robe can get in the way of IVs or ports.
- Novels Depending on the treatment, a patient may be up to reading a whole novel, but check in on your giftee’s treatments and how they will be affected.
- Medical supplies or over the counter remedies In a hospital, never bring additional medical supplies unless specifically requested. This is the one that irked me the most – even if you think you know something will help.
One more pro-tip
If you want to put together a great care package full of self care items, pick up one of the gift sets from Sephora, take the items out of the box and put them into your gift pouch with one of the practical items and you’ll have a winning care package. I also love picking up little gift items at places like Anthropologie or The Container Store when I’m out to keep on hand for care packages.