how to build a hospital care package for caregivers.

September 23, 2013, Michaela Evanow, 12 Comments

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:
  1. breakfast foods: muffins, scones, instant oatmeal, bagels and cream cheese, individual yogurts
  2. date night foods: bread, cheeses, meats, olives, sparkling drink of choice
  3. 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.
  4. 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).
  1. Stress Relief roll on by Saje
  2. Stress Away by Young Living 
  3. 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 childrenhospital care package


  • Reply Susie July 17, 2015 at 4:51 AM

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I want to send a care package like this to a friend’s sister but wasn’t sure what would be best to send. I’m happy that now I can send things that I know will be soothing and/or helpful. God bless.

  • Reply Sara May 7, 2015 at 3:56 PM

    Thank you for posting this. It has given me lots of great ideas to support a dear family right now. Blessings .

  • Reply kali gillespie November 13, 2013 at 1:51 PM

    I’m just seeing this post now, it is fabulous Michaela and a much needed resource for caregivers everywhere…one I know I will pass on to others. For my years as a ped’s RN I can attest to the need for SO much care & practical love to be poured out over the families of the kids. It is challenging and stretching; boring yet emotional, wearying like few other life experiences. Thank-you for shining light, and bringing hope and help to many!

    • Reply Michaela. November 13, 2013 at 2:03 PM

      So glad to hear this Kali. What a fabulous nurse you are and must have been.

  • Reply Inkling September 23, 2013 at 9:11 PM

    This is a wonderful list, and one I want to print out and use as a guide. When my husband was out of town, and my toddler was admitted one day after what I had hoped would be a quick trip the ER, I learned pretty quickly how to be flexible and do without. I didn’t even have anyone to move my car or put money in to pay for the spot longer, and we were quarantined, so I wasn’t allowed to leave his room. The slippers my husband brought me when he did get back in town, the toothbrush, and the pajamas from home that fit so much better than the huge scrubs they had given me all made me feel as if I’d been to a spa. When I did get to go home while my husband stayed with our little one, you are right – all I wanted was a bath and a nap. We didn’t have a long stay like you did, but it did make me appreciate the challenges faced by mamas and daddies when their kiddos are in the hospital.

  • Reply Michaela. September 23, 2013 at 6:47 PM

    Lovely. You sound like such a great mama. You can share with me by email: check my contact info. Also I have a series called This is Motherhood {Too}, and I would love to have your story on there. You can change names, including yours and don’t need to share pictures or anything. Or just be anonymous. Email me!
    Here’s the info:

    • Reply Anita September 23, 2013 at 7:26 PM

      I will share and I will change our names. I will let YOU know the ‘names’. I know that helping others is actually a selfish gesture in a quiet way. It can aid others but it also nurtures the ‘nurturer’. Darwin would like that ! I may start tomorrow…. Xo

  • Reply Anita September 23, 2013 at 4:56 PM

    Michaela, I am a VCH warrior mom and you’ve come up with great ideas ! Maybe someone to “field” phone calls, sort of doing it on a rotating basis like a prayer chain. Hoe about the gift of an inexpensive prepaid phone then friends can purchase ‘minutes’ for the phone (it is TERRIBLE to have your phone shut off with your baby on Oak Street because your ‘phone plan’ has been overreached !) and how about gift cards for petrol ? Driving home to the North shore to hug your beloved ‘normal’ pets for an hour shouldn’t have to stop you from taking that hot home shower and driving right back to Children’s to sleep on the floor next to your beloved miracle child that same night ! You are a wonder, Momma Michaela and we Warrior Children’s Hospital mommas standing with you too ! REALLY. XO Anita

    • Reply Michaela. September 23, 2013 at 5:03 PM

      Great ideas Anita. I’ll weave some of those in there! I’d love to hear your story! Thanks for taking the time to comment 🙂

      • Reply Anita September 23, 2013 at 6:43 PM

        I would be proud to share ‘our’ story with you… It is surely ‘Mr. Toads Wild Ride’ multiplied by an over abundance of caffeine ! I have to be very careful because my miracle- girl is a teenager and is a very independent soul who chooses NOT to share her story. She holds her privacy very dear and right now does not appreciate her heroism. (Believe it or not, high schools are breeding grounds for bullying ANYBODY who is different in ANY way including our little “courage soldiers”) If you saw her skipping down the street with her long copper blonde hair swinging and her lithe dancers body galloping to the current pop tunes you could only smile and envy her for her outward health and her blissfull beauty. She is a miracle AND a hero !! Anyway, if we could ‘share’ without social media identifying her I will happily do so ! We should think of a private way ? Going to make some grilled cheeses and tomatoes (garden fresh) sandwiches for she and her homework buddies !! Xo A

  • Reply Melissa Naiad September 23, 2013 at 2:16 PM

    I love all these healthy, feel-good, holistic ideas. These are just the things that would provide me with a bit of comfort if I were in the hospital with my baby.

    • Reply Michaela. September 23, 2013 at 6:43 PM

      Why thank you Melissa. Let’s hope that never happens!

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