how to build a hospital care package for caregivers.
This post has been inspired by the countless people who brought us food and goodies, sent us texts to check in and see what we need and forced us to tell them what we wanted (I so appreciate this, because it makes me uncomfortable to ask!) while we were in the hospital for 7 weeks with Florence. I’ve been thinking about it for ages and started writing it while we were in hospital, as I was so inspired by our amazing community of friends and family that took care of us.
Parents of sick children often lose their minds a little while being in hospital. It’s not really about you—you’re not the sick one. All day long it’s about your child, and so, your needs naturally get neglected.
If the parent(s) go home at the end of the day, the last thing on their mind is driving to the grocery store and buying food to make. Or cleaning the house, doing some laundry. They want a hot shower, a good sleep. When Florence was in hospital the second time, I was often home by 8:00pm or so and then out the door in the morning by 7:00am. I did stupid things like kill the ants under the kitchen sink or sweep the very dusty floor and then crashed into bed, tired, but mostly aching. I forgot how to function in my home, so used to the hospitals way of doing things. All I could think about was my baby lying on a bed in the PICU for weeks and weeks.
Whether you know someone who has a 3 night hospital stay or 3 months, usually the parent’s mind is not preparing to stay in the hospital for any length of time. A supposed two day stay can turn into two months, often discharge dates or open ended or get pushed back, some treatments or surgeries are unplanned. Many parents don’t want to leave their child’s side until things have settled (if they settle), so having basic necessities is often an issue. When we went to the hospital we had no idea it would end up being nearly a two month stay. Needless to say, I didn’t brush my teeth for awhile.
Here are some practical ways you may help, share your love and build a community of support, to make the hospital stay a little less sterile. Just because a family is in hospital, doesn’t mean it can’t be brightened by simple and beautiful things that we often take for granted in the comfort of our home.
Place your items of choice into a reusable bag, something that can be folded up small, or filled with laundry when all the food is gone, or simply thrown out. We had quite a few of these bags laying around Florence’s hospital room. Some were filled with teas and honey, others with food, clothing or books.
- Thrifted plates and silverware for meals (unless there aren’t sufficient facilities for cleaning)
- Paper plates or good quality disposable utensils
- Thrited but beautiful mugs for endless cups of hot tea and coffee
- Water bottle or reusable cup with a straw
- Bottled beverages like kombucha, sparkling water, coconut water, organic juices or cold teas
- Fancy variety of teas
- Cream or milk (instant creamer is the worst)
- Good quality honey for tea and sore throats (hospitals are often very dry)
- Emergen C powder or other gentle vitamin supplement
- Coffee gift cards to the hospital cafe (often the highlight of my morning was going out to the hospital Starbucks, to do something normal, like wait in line and take a deep sip of a hot coffee).
- Gift cards to favourite grocery chains (for homecoming—gives the family something to look forward to)
- Lozenges (dryness in hospital)
- Bach Rescue Remedy therapies: homeopathic stress relief in drops, pastilles, gum, lotion (these products are wonderful for stress relief and can help with sleep issues)
- Wool or bamboo socks
- Toiletries like travel size shower gels, shampoo and conditioner, hand lotion, shaving cream, razors, toothpaste, mouthwash.
- Face cloths or disposable face cloths (you can find great items like these at MEC or REI)
- DVD’s, books, magazines for the patient and parent (some brought books for Florence and I donated a few of them at the end of our stay because the hospital supply was pretty poor).
- Pretty things to look at like balloons, succulents, handmade posters, tiny stuffed animals, hand puppets.
- Patterned receiving blankets and bamboo or muslin blankets (these can be donated to the hospital too so other parents and babies can enjoy them too)
- Flameless battery operated candles (this is my doula brain kicking into gear!)
- A parking pass (make sure they don’t have one yet) or money specifically for hospital parking/phone calls/gas cards/cable in hospital.
- Foods like Babybel cheese, nitrate free deli meat, easy meals, mandarin oranges or apples (things that do not ripen too fast), seasonal fruit, veggies and dip, guacamole, soup, artisan crackers, yogurt, non-browning fruit salad, yogurt or chocolate covered raisins or nuts, trail mix, and of course home cooked meals!
- If you want to be more specific or creative, try some themed food gifts, like:
- breakfast foods: muffins, scones, instant oatmeal, bagels and cream cheese, individual yogurts
- date night foods: bread, cheeses, meats, olives, sparkling drink of choice
- stay healthy foods: kombucha or kefir, protein bars like Vega or Raw Revolution (nothing sugary and plastic!), greek yogurt, nourishing soups. ginger or peppermint tea.
- treats: after dinner snacks, popcorn, homemade cookies, fruit juice gummies, artesian ice cream, good quality chocolate.
- Aromatherapy for stress relief (most hospitals are scent free, but a gentle roll on or a few drops on the temple are hardly noticeable for others).
- Stress Relief roll on by Saje
- Stress Away by Young Living
- Lavender, Frankincense, Roman Chamomile, Geranium, Sweet Orange, Peppermint, Clary Sage.
Also, if you live close to them or want to help out around the house, offer to:
- Weed their garden
- Harvest their garden vegetables or fruit
- Mow the lawn
- Grab their mail
- Bring them some of their clothing or items from home
- Water their plants or feed their pets
- Walk their dog
- Take out the garbage
- Vacuum or do the dishes
- Babysit their other children