Hospitals suck. Yeah, they’re there to make us get better, but they’re cold and smell funny. You have interrupted sleep at night and have to wake up early to give blood or talk to the doctors. And then they have the nerve to say, “Get some rest” when they leave. Ha! That’s funny. How can you get stronger when you have to eat bland food and dinner is served at 4:00 in the afternoon?
The hospital is the last place most people want to be. But, in an effort to get better, how do you make the person there really feel better? Probably not what you think. I’ve spent a lot of time there, so here’s my list of what NOT to do for someone that has to spend some time in the medi-pen.
1. Don’t send flowers. I love flowers, but depending on the nature of the hospitalization, they are not always accepted. And if you have to go to ICU, the flowers get evicted. So, instead of flowers, opt for a Betta fish in a small fishbowl or tank. These beautiful little creatures are extremely low-maintenance and are still a great symbol of life. If the hospital doesn’t allow fish, smiley face balloons will always put you in a good mood. Yellow is energetic and evokes happiness.
2. Don’t call on the phone. Most phone calls are received when you are sleeping, eating or with the doctors. It’s hard to rest while you are in the hospital, so phone calls often become an intrusion. If your loved one has a cell in the room, text first to get the go-ahead before proceeding with a phone call.
3. Don’t be a virtual visitor. Exclusively emailing, texting, or Facebooking is no substitute for a visit (if you can help it.) Human interaction promotes healing and the hospital can be a very lonely place. Tangible love from your family and friends is the medicine that the doctors can’t prescribe. Visit often and at varying times. But if you are unable to visit in person, try using Video Chat or Skype for the technologically-inclined.
4. Don’t come empty-handed. Any reminder of “life on the outside” is welcomed. And you don’t have to spend a lot. Pictures are good. Music’s better. Food is best. Grab some pictures of the good times. Fill an iPod with your loved one’s favorite music, games, or audiobooks (especially for those sleepless nights.) A yummy dinner from a good restaurant is great, but don’t forget about those late night cravings. Bring some food that doesn’t require reheating or refrigeration that he or she can snack on when that 4:00 dinner has left the belly.
5. Don’t forget about ‘em once discharged. Depending on the severity of the illness, your assistance will be most needed at home. Prepare a home-cooked meal with your loved one in the room. You do the work while they enjoy your company. Tackle that mound of laundry that has grown taller than the Sears Tower. Some of the simplest stuff becomes the most difficult. Just ask how you can help and be sure to fulfill your promise!