Helping Hands – Top “ten” ways to help someone with an extended hospital stay

Very recently, I learned of a family currently facing trauma, the kind of trauma that involves an extended hospital stay followed by a period of convalescence (hopefully at home).  They are part of an incredible church family, one that has surrounded them in ways that are deeply supportive and faithful, and have been a real testament to what the family of God should look like.

My sister-in-law and I started brainstorming ways that people could help.  I have friends who intuitively know the needs of people with crisis situations like illness or accidents (and even awesome situations like bringing a new baby home), and immediately jump to fulfill them.  I would imagine many of you, like me, hear of these kinds of things and feel helpless.  Well, you’re not!  I give you…drumroll, please…the Top Ten (okay, nine…well, eight, really) helpful tools for those with such a crisis. Most, if not all, of these ideas were done unto us.  You would be amazed at the ways you can bless people who need it!

During and/or after hospital stay:

    1. Meals.  This is the number one offer of help that we were given, and it was an incredible blessing.  We received meals while at the hospital (thank goodness – food’s expensive there and not so healthy) and after.  Here are a few tips:
      • Go disposable.  If you can help it, try not to use dishes they will have to return or they will have stacks of them and not know where they go.
      • Ingredients list and a recipe!  This is helpful for allergies, and for those dishes that are extra special hits.
      • Directions.  Don’t forget to let them know how to heat it.
      • Include the date of preparation.  They may come across a frozen meal several weeks (or months) later and not know how old it is!
      • * If you are the person with the key to their house, perhaps do a little freezer organization (mine needed it!) so it’s easy to access the meals.
      • Hot meals: set a date and time when you plan to bring it.  Give enough notice that they haven’t got something ready already.
      • If you don’t have time (or don’t like/can’t cook), give a gift card to restaurants that are close by hospital or home.  Take-out pizza or Chinese can be great on the really overwhelming days.
    2. Snacks.
      Extended hospital stays get expensive.  Bring muffins for breakfast (frozen or not, make sure they’re labelled), or a loaf of bread with jam and butter, some fruit (not too much; it goes bad when forgotten), granola bars, a small tray of fresh veggies, etc.  A travel mug, some tea bags and some sugar cubes are helpful too.
    3. Encouragement at the hospital and after.  This can be in the form of cards, notes, messages on the phone or facebook or email.  We were so touched by all the encouragement we had; it helped us through the harder times to know so many people cared and were praying for us and our family.
    4. Parking.  If you know that the stay will be extended, consider purchasing for them a one-week parking pass at the hospital.  Make sure you aren’t doubling up with someone else, though; if you can ask them if they need it, try that.  And if they don’t want to accept your money, ignore them.  When you are in the hospital, accepting help is very humbling and you don’t necessarily realize how much of a help it is.
    5. “Love Offerings.”  There were some small but very thoughtful gifts that came to the hospital for us.  People gave or lent books or activities like sudoku or word searches (which was nice once the crisis was past), colouring and activity books for older siblings who stick around the hospital a lot, travel shampoo, a newspaper or magazine, things like that.
    6. Yard work.  Easiest, probably, because no arrangements need to be made.  Just show up, bring your own lawn mower, trimmer, shears, gloves (or shovel, if it’s winter) and clean up the yard so it doesn’t seem like another thing to do.  (My wonderful mom redid my whole garden – but I wouldn’t recommend that unless you know them well).
    7. House workIf it is possible to clean house for them, consider bringing your own supplies.  Ask if they use chemicals or chemical free/home made stuff (they may have their own, if they do).  A wonderful friend of mine made some home made cleaners for me – she remembered a conversation we’d had about that once!
    8. Child care, if applicable.  Including pick up and drop-off, if you are able (or switch vehicles if they have car seats).  (Have I mentioned my amazing family and friends?).
    9. Laundry.  A thoughtful offer – but probably not one that will be accepted.  It is…ahem, embarrassing…to have someone go through your skivvies.
    10. A listening ear.  Often when someone you love (like your child) is ill, everyone asks about how your child is, and not about how you are.   I was so grateful for friends who listened to me cry and rant and worry.   I was equally grateful for friends who took me out and talked about the things in their day to take my mind off of my own heartaches.  Not that I remember much of the conversation…but it was nice sometimes to shut off and not talk about things.

If you are one of those who chooses to do something like this for someone, try not to be offended if you don’t get thanked.  Those you help have so much on their mind, they may forget a few people.  Go anonymous, if you like.  But don’t feel you have to – I loved thanking people for their help, letting them know how grateful I was.  If you happen to be organizing any of these things and can get people’s names and addies, and maybe write a little list, that’d be great – so when the person gets down to thank-yous the information is readily available.

Have you ever experienced this kind of help?  How did people you care about help you when you were in need of it?

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Elesha
    Dec 18, 2011 @ 05:11:14

    Great ideas Crystal, very practical! Thanks again! 🙂

    Reply

  2. Angela
    Dec 18, 2011 @ 11:56:19

    This will be my go to list! Might I add gas gift cards? That and parking and hospital food were three things that really helped a friend of mine whose child was in hospital for a few months.

    Reply

  3. Chrisaline
    Jan 30, 2012 @ 00:19:39

    Thanks Crystal. I see things on the list that I could do and would love to do but never thought. I will keep this list in my “keepers” file. Thanks again 🙂

    Reply

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