22 Thoughtful Gifts to Give a Friend in the Hospital
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Article updated on May 19, 2019.
Whether it’s a few days, a few weeks, or a few months, a hospital stay is never fun. Not only can it be boring and isolating, but going through medical challenges can be painful, exhausting, and stressful.
Maybe your loved one had a major operation or surgery and is in the hospital recovering. Maybe they are ill or experiencing health complications, and have been admitted so they can remain under the close observation of their medical team. There are a wide range of health issues that can necessitate a hospital stay, and these variances may influence the types of gifts your loved one is allowed to receive. It’s always important to check hospital regulations or ask a member of your loved one’s care team if you’re unsure whether certain gifts (such as food or live plants) are permitted.
Additionally, everyone has a different way of coping with the difficulties of a hospital stay. Some love spending time with visitors while others prefer to only see immediate family. Some like to have lots of activities to keep them busy while others prefer to simply rest. It all depends on the individual, their unique health situation and how they’re feeling during their stay.
If you have a friend or loved one in the hospital, you may be wondering how best to help them and let them know you care.
Here are our community’s recommendations.
1. Quality Time to Show You Care
Sometimes the best thing you can do for someone is simply spend some time with them to show them that you care. Hospital stays can be lonely and monotonous, and having some company can make it far more enjoyable. Whether you’re catching up on life over tea, playing a game or watching a movie together, quality time can mean so much. Just make sure to check in with your friend or loved one first to see if they’re feeling up to receiving visitors.
Erin Bowers told us,”This might sound cheesy, but someone’s time. For someone to go out of their way to acknowledge me when I am at my lowest means the world!”
“When you’re in and out of the hospital a lot, even people close to you stop visiting. The only thing I want when I’m in there is my friends and family. Just to sit with me and rub my back or hold my hand. It gets so incredibly lonely when the only people who are touching you are the hospital staff. A loving touch makes having to lay in bed for weeks at a time in a cold sterile place so much easier,” said Hannah Easton DeWitt.
“A visit,” added Sara Miles. “Seriously. The best gift is your time because hospitals are lonely places. Being able to talk with a friend to get your mind off the crap happening in your body is extremely important. And if your friend is like me, then find out if you can bring a furry friend with you for some healing snuggles.”
2. A Massage to Help Relieve Their Tension
If your know your friend or loved one enjoys getting massages, bring along some lotion or a small massage tool and treat them to a little pampering. If they are stressed about test results, recovery or being away from home, their muscles might need a little TLC! Not only can a massage help melt away stress and tension, but having some loving human contact can do wonders for your mood when hospitals so often feel cold and clinical.
Maureen Sullivan wrote, “After many surgeries over the years, I would have loved a back, leg, feet and hand massage. My neck and back become so tight from the mattresses that are in hospitals. Massages are loving and nurturing for your body that deals with mostly pain while there. Having loving touch [can be] beneficial to anyone.”
3. “Real” Food (for When Hospital Food Doesn’t Cut It)
It’s no secret that hospital food isn’t the best. And for those with food allergies or dietary restrictions, it can often be difficult to find “safe” food to eat. If the hospital allows you to bring in outside food, and your friend’s doctor confirms it’s OK, a homecooked meal or even some takeout can be a welcome change from the typical hospital meals.
Amanda Wilson said, “Real food! Hospital food is OK (at least in the hospitals here) but I would have killed for a cheeseburger or something.”
Cassidy Lee added, “Food is always helpful! Hospitals have terrible food and when feeling crummy it would be great to have something you like from a restaurant nearby!”
“Visitors and homecooked meals!” said Sarah Hulke Zaidi. “If someone takes the time to make sure you’re OK, it means the world, and it takes my mind off the pain. And there’s nothing worse than hospital food or prepackaged stuff, so homecooked meals which fit my food intolerances are the best when I’m feeling ill.”
4. Beauty Products to Help Them Feel Confident and Put-Together
In a setting that often feels far from glamorous, having your hair and nails done, getting a makeover and feeling put-together can be incredibly mood-boosting. Bring in beauty products you have at home or splurge on some new ones to pamper your friend.
Donna Cusack said, “[I would love] a beautician! After two two-month stints in the hospital, I would have loved someone to come and wash my hair/shave my legs/give me a manicure and pedicure. I didn’t have the energy to do it myself.”
Savannah Hulsopple wrote, “Last time I was in the hospital for a long stay, my friend brought me a full face of makeup so I wouldn’t be as bored and I felt so much more human with a little mascara on!”
Daisy Sambolin recommended, “Netflix and chill (legit though!) while doing your hair or painting nails… like a girl’s night in.”
5. Flowers and Plants to Brighten Up the Room
Hospital rooms can be dreary, and being stuck indoors for an extended period of time may leave some missing the outdoors. A colorful bouquet of flowers or a plant can bring some freshness and life into the room. Just be sure to check with hospital staff to see if live plants are allowed in that particular wing, and check with your friend to see if they have any allergies or sensitivities. If live plants aren’t an option, fake flowers or plants can look just as beautiful!
Misty Lemons said, “I love getting flowers. Anytime I’m brought flowers while in the hospital, it’s very cheery.”
Sara Miles recommended, “A plant that doesn’t require much tending and doesn’t give off any scents. Even if your friend likes scented things, it doesn’t mean their roommate isn’t highly ‘scent-sitive.'”
Meghan Jean added, “Flowers are always so nice and thoughtful. Hospitals are not the most warm or encouraging places to be. Bringing a bit of natural beauty in always helps and shows you were thought about. Being thought about is the biggest, sweetest thing.”
6. Pajamas for Extra Comfort
Hospital gowns can leave you feeling cold and exposed, but wearing the same outfit for several days or weeks in a row is no fun either. Having a new, clean pair of pajamas can make a hospital stay much more cozy and comfortable. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to show off some personality with funky patterns or bold colors!
Melaney Niemiec wrote, “Comfortable and cozy pajamas. I love getting new cute pajamas while inpatient. It makes an awful situation a little better.”
Rachel Perez said she likes getting a new nightgown she can wear in the hospital, clean socks or clothes that are clean and comfy.
7. Activity Books to Keep Them Busy
Watching re-runs of old shows on the TV in your hospital room can get old quickly. Bringing your friend some fun activity books can help them keep their hands and mind occupied during their stay. Many also find activities such as coloring or solving puzzles to be incredibly therapeutic, which may be especially important during a stressful time in the hospital.
Sara Miles said, “A little coloring book and small set of pencil crayons. But don’t forget to bring along a pencil sharpener if you do.”
Melaney Niemiec wrote, “I love anything that keeps my mind busy, like books, coloring, hangman, beading, etc.”
“Coloring books and crayons/markers/pencils/etc.! I never got on the adult coloring book craze till a friend brought me one during my stay. It was so peaceful and calming to focus on something so simple but lovely. It also made me remember being a kid and coloring again – it felt very rewarding!” added Samantha Ahearn.
Lauren Jackson said, “Books of crossword puzzles or sudoku. If I’m stuck in the hospital for any extended amount of time, it’s nice to have something to engage me mentally.”
8. Hygiene Products to Help Them Feel Fresh
Hygiene products may not sound like the most exciting gift ever, but if you are stuck in your hospital bed for days on end and unable to shower or bathe properly, nothing compares to the feeling of being fresh and clean. If you’re wondering what types of products might be best, our chronic illness community recommends these 17 hygiene products for people who are unable to shower, and these 22 personal care products for people who are sensitive to scents and chemicals.
Brooklynn Bates wrote, “I’d recommend hygiene products. Deodorant, a nice natural fabric/room spray, Chapstick, a good lotion, hand sanitizer, face cleansing towels like the Clearasil 5-in-1 wipes, and definitely those little Scrubzz shower towels. You just get them wet, wash yourself with it, and you’re done! No need to unhook from IV’s to rinse off.”
Marie Fraser said, “Kleenex with lotion. Hospital Kleenex is dry and scratchy, like cheap paper towels.”
Anne Lorigan added, “A good toothbrush!! Hospital toothbrushes stink.”
Our picks: Scrubzz Disposable No Rise Bathing Wipes, 2-pack ($15.49), Kleenex With Lotion, 4-pack ($7.99) and Clearasil 5 in 1 Acne Facial Cleansing Pads, 90-count ($6.52)
9. A Blanket for Added Warmth and Coziness
It can be hard to feel cozy in the hospital, but a soft, fuzzy blanket can provide some comfort and warmth. Your loved one may even have a favorite blanket or pillow at home that you could bring so they can have something familiar.
Karen Heger told us, “I love receiving a visit and a nice warm soft blanket that has been pre-washed with no smells like fabric softener. Smells are nice, but not when you are sick. I still have the blanket from my stem cell transplant in 2007. It was such a sweet gift. I am always cold.”
Our pick: Sherpa Throw Blanket ($18.99)
10. Greeting Cards to Show You’re Thinking of Them
If you are unable to visit or your friend isn’t feeling up to seeing anybody, a card with a handwritten note is a simple but powerful way to show you are thinking about them and acknowledging the struggles they’re facing.
“Visitors or simply cards,” said Kate Bush. “I used to say coloring books but my hands don’t work well enough anymore. But I find simple cards have the most meaning.”
Rena Coomer wrote, “Funny cards or something to make me laugh. I actually prefer no visitors when I’m ill. (Except for my family and close friends.) Cards are perfect.”
Shea MacKenzie Corpora added, “Just kind words, honestly. Some recognition that people see I’m fighting and are supporting me, even if they can’t come to see me.”
Our pick: “Thinking of You” Kraft Greeting Cards, Set of 20 ($11.99)
11. Gift Cards That Let Them Pick Out Their Own Entertainment
Our phones, tablets and computers are sources of endless entertainment – but much of that entertainment comes with a price tag. Giving your friend a gift card they can use to download books, music, movies, podcasts, etc. will help with some of the boredom that can come with a long hospital stay.
Sara Miles suggested, “iTunes or Google Play gift cards – our phones do everything these days. Gives us the allowance to rent a movie, buy that book or listen to some new tunes.”
Samantha Ahearn added, “Certificates for audiobooks are great too! I had a hard time reading because of eye strain/headaches from the constant hospital lighting and sounds, but gentle talking and an engrossing story with my headphones made life much more pleasant.”
12. Fuzzy Socks to Keep Them Toasty Warm
In addition to some new comfy pajamas, a pair of fuzzy socks can help keep your friend warm and comfortable in the hospital. If they’re spending most of the day in bed, circulation may become an issue, causing their feet to feel cold. Plus, some fuzzy socks are a great opportunity to add a splash of color to the room.
“Fuzzy socks,” said Sara Miles. “The air filtration system that helps prevent the spread of airborne disease in hospitals leaves them on the chilly side and those who are not moving around much get cold easily.”
Marlette McAlister added, “Fuzzy socks… nothing says ‘get well soon’ better then fuzzy socks!”
Our pick: Fuzzy Anti Grip Socks, Assorted Colors, Pack of 6 ($13.99)
13. Tea to Soothe the Soul (and Stomach)
A warm cup of tea can be incredibly soothing (and likely tastier than what the hospital provides). Whether your loved one needs some comfort while they’re alone, or the two of you want to catch up over a cup, it would likely be greatly appreciated. Tea is also a great option if your friend is on a strict diet or can’t eat solid food.
Samantha Ahearn suggested, “Tasty tea and beverages, if they are able to have them. I was clear liquids only and a peppermint tea my partner brought me was the best thing I tasted all week. Make sure to ask about any dietary issues or cravings they have!”
Our pick: Twinings Assorted Tea Variety Pack, 40-ct. ($13.29)
14. Journal and Pens to Document Their Experiences
For many, writing can be cathartic and help relieve some of the stress and anxiety of being in the hospital. Giving your friend a notebook and some fun multicolored pens allows them to document their feelings and experiences – plus any important medical information they don’t want to forget!
Anjelika AJ Hagood recommended, “Journal with awesome writing pens. I like to document my daily journey and experiences.”
Char Baiz added, “G2 pilot pens in different colors [along with] a journal or composition notebook.”
15. Moisturizing Products to Soothe Dry Skin
Hospitals can be notoriously cold and dry, so bringing your friend some moisturizing products such as lotion or lip balm can help soothe dry, cracked skin and keep them more comfortable during their stay.
Deb Van Straten told us, “A good hand cream, dry mouth lozenges. It is so dry in the hospital. Please don’t bring anything that will be difficult to haul home.”
Our picks: Aveeno Intense Moisture Hand Cream ($6.88), Burt’s Bees Natural Moisturizing Lip Balm, Pack of 4 ($9.09) and TheraBreath Dry Mouth Lozenges, 100-count ($9.39)
16. Hair Accessories to Help With Both Style and Comfort
Washing your hair isn’t always possible (or easy) to do during a hospital stay, but it can leave you and your hair feeling a bit icky. Being able to pull your hair back with some fun headbands or hair ties can not only keep it out of your face, but help you feel a bit more put together.
Melaney Niemiec suggested, “Cute headbands for when my hair is dirty but I don’t have the energy to wash it. Plus they sometimes just make me feel put together and pretty in the hospital!”
17. Eye Mask and Earplugs to Aid in Sleep
It can be hard to get some solid sleep in the hospital with all the lights and noises of the machines and nurses checking in, and some may struggle with anxiety or sensory overload. A comfy eye mask and ear covers can be soothing and help your friend get some rest.
Samantha Ahearn told us, “[I like] soft blindfolds/eye covers to block out light and help me sleep (maybe some sort of fancy lavender or other essential oil ones for extra pampering!). My room was a corner one with huge windows and no proper curtains (just those mesh nonsense restaurants have that don’t actually block the light) and I had constant issues with the sun in the daytime and bright city lights and the helicopter pad at night. Ear plugs or covers (I hate plugs personally) are good too!”
18. Silly Toys or Stuffed Animals to Make Them Smile
No matter your age, you’re never too old to find joy in a goofy stuffed animal. If you think it will make your friend smile, then it’s a perfect gift to give.
Jamie Gallion wrote, “My mom brought me these goofy plastic blizzard toys that had these long tongues that stuck out when you squeezed them. They were so silly, but they made me smile and they made my nurses smile too. It made my stay just a little less scary.”
“Doesn’t matter how old you are, a teddy is always comforting and snuggly,” said Jenna Durban.
Tamara Wagner added that a cuddly toy can help ease sensory overload.
19. Helping Out at Home to Ease Stress While They’re in the Hospital
Sometimes the best gift to give someone in the hospital is what you do for them outside the hospital. If your friend or loved one is unable to be home, household chores may go undone and start to build up, creating stress for the person who is sick. Helping them out by doing some cleaning, cooking and laundry or even checking in on their families can take a huge burden of their shoulders, helping them to focus on healing.
Joanne Shabazian told us, “Not so much a gift, but friends and family who offer to help with my kids (take them meals, check on them, etc.). I know that as older teens they are now fine on their own for a few days, but it helps to know someone is thinking of them when I can’t be there for them.”
Karen-Fey Ron-Gunter said, “I’m not usually up for visitors during hospital stays. I’m very sick and just need to rest. But, if I knew my house was being looked after… such as cleaning, laundry, the animals, food was being made, I full-heartily believe it would go miles towards my sense of peace while there. And ultimately my recovery.”
“I have been in the hospital many times. The best thing anyone can give me is help for my hubby, babysit for a while so he can visit me and get updates on health, help with meals, care for pets, things that most of the time get overlooked,” said Denise Hall Taylor.
Crystal Wagner added, “A clean house when I return home, with laundry done and homemade meals filling the freezer. That would be the best!”
20. Fruit and Veggies for a Fresh Food Option
Being stuck in the hospital can often mean being stuck with some pretty bland food choices. If your friend is able to eat fresh fruit and veggies and is allowed to receive outside food, some fresh fruit and veggies can be yummy – and bring some color into the room! Online services such as Edible Arrangements will deliver pretty fruit/vegetable displays, but simply hitting the produce section of your local grocery store works just as well!
Sara Miles wrote, “Fruit (ask if the person you’re seeing has had any diet restrictions placed on them first) – but only a few pieces, not a whole basket that can go bad.”
“Edible Arrangement,” recommended Cassidy Lee. “[Hospitals] never have any good food and my mom and I love to pick on the fruit!”
“Fresh fruit and vegetables!” said ED Johnston. “I love when I can add some berries to my oatmeal in the morning. The food is always so bad and overcooked so some crunchy carrot sticks can go a long way in making the stay more pleasant.”
Our pick: Edible Arrangement, Small ($64.99)
21. Games to Give You Something Fun to Do Together
If you’re looking for something to do with your friend in the hospital, a standard deck of cards can be used to play a ton of different games, and there are endless other card, trivia and board games to help you pass the time, exercise your minds a bit and have some fun.
Annastasia Loucks said, “Someone to come and play board/card games with me for a few hours to take away some of the boredom and isolation.”
22. Essential Oils and Diffuser to Relieve Anxiety
To cloak that “hospital smell,” bring along a diffuser and some essential oils to help the room feel more relaxing. Just make sure essential oils are allowed in the hospital, and that your friend is not sensitive to strong smells!
“Essential oils to diffuse,” Sarena Ezzell told us. “My friend recently brought me some during my last hospital stay and it really added a calm, homey effect to the room.”
Whatever you decide to do for your friend or loved one in the hospital, the most important thing is to show them you love them and are thinking of them. Whether that means bringing them a gift, writing them a heartfelt message or spending quality time with them, they will likely appreciate any gesture, as long as it comes from the heart and is considerate of their needs and wishes.
If you’re looking for more recommendations about what to do for friends facing various health challenges, we’ve got you covered. Check out the following stories from our Mighty community:
- 3 Ways to Show Up for a Friend Who Just Had Surgery
- 26 Gifts to Give a Friend Whose Illness Keeps Them Stuck at Home
- The Best Ways to Actually Be Helpful to Those Struggling With Illness
- 13 Gifts Ideas for a Friend Who’s in the Psychiatric Hospital
- 4 Ways to Help a Friend in the Midst of a Medical Crisis
And for those who have spent time in the hospital, we would love to know what you’d add to this list! Let us know the best gift you’ve received (or what gift you would love to receive) during a hospital stay in the comments below.