22 Thoughtful Gifts to Give a Friend in the Hospital
We hope the products below, all recommended by our Mighty community members, help you or a loved one in your health journeys. Just so you know, The Mighty may collect a share of sales from the Amazon links on this page. Prices and product availability are accurate as of publication.
Article updated on November 9, 2018.
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.
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 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.
We hope the products below, all recommended by our Mighty community members, help you or a loved one in your health journeys. Just so you know, The Mighty may collect a share of sales from the Amazon links on this page.
1. Your Time
Sometimes the best thing you can do for someone is simply spend some time with them. Hospital stays can be lonely and monotonous, and having some company can make it far more enjoyable. 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
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. Not only does a massage physically feel amazing, but having some loving human contact can do wonders for your mood.
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
It’s no secret that hospital food isn’t the best. And for those with food allergies or 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
In a setting that often feels far from glamorous, having your hair and nails done, getting a makeover and feeling beautiful 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
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.
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.”
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 comfortable.
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
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.
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
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.
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.”
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: Fleece Throw Blanket ($22.99)
10. Greeting Cards
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 battle they’re fighting.
“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” Greeting Cards ($11.99)
11. Gift Cards
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
In addition to some new comfy pajamas, a pair of fuzzy socks can help keep your friend warm and comfortable in the hospital – plus, they’re a great way 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 Socks, Pack of 6 ($17.99)
A warm cup of tea can be incredibly soothing (and likely tastier than what the hospital provides). This is 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: Assorted Tea, 40-ct. ($14.44)
14. Journal and Pens
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.
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
Hospitals tend to be notoriously cold and dry, so bringing your friend some moisturizing products such as lotion or lip balm can help them feel more comfortable.
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.”
16. Hair Accessories
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
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
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. Help at Home
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. Fresh Fruit and Veggies
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 ($65)
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 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 Oil Diffuser
To cloak that “hospital smell,” bring along a diffuser and some essential oils to help the room feel more relaxing. (Just make sure 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.”