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Synapse Resource of the Month - December 2022

Celebrating the month of giving with our thoughts and support for those in hospital. logo

The Best and Worst Gifts for a Hospital Patient

By Jennifer Whitlock, RN, MSN, FN | Republished on December 1, 2022

Many people like to take a gift when visiting a sick friend or loved one in the hospital. However, the right gift can be difficult to find. To make things more difficult, some of the most common gifts given to hospitalized people are not always allowed in every area of the hospital.

Keep in mind that hospitals can be very boring places,and they are never as comfortable as one's own home. Gifts that help improve comfort and relieve boredom are ideal, as are gifts that lift the mood.

Gifts of Entertainment

It can be difficult to pass the time in a hospital. Coming up with creative ways to help your friend pass the time may be the most valuable gift you can give. Magazines, for example, are a great gift because the articles tend to be short. That way if your friend tires easily, they can set the magazine aside and return to it later.

Music can be very calming and soothing. Your friend may have an MP3 player that they use for their music, or they may appreciate having some of their favorite CDs brought to the hospital with a small radio that can be played quietly. Many hospitals anticipate the need for entertainment and supply DVD players and televisions in the patient rooms. If the room is equipped in this way, bringing a few movies from home or the library would be a welcome diversion. If your friend has a laptop, they are often able to play movies as well.

In some hospitals, it is possible to hook up a video game console to the television, which can provide hours of entertainment.

Sudoku, a deck of cards, crossword puzzles and other types of mind games are a great way to help pass the time in a hospital. Also think of:

Books: If you know what your friend likes to read,a book makes a great gift and can help take their mind off of the illness. Reading materials, including magazines, can make long and tedious tests more bearable and sleepless nights may pass more quickly.

Music: Headphones make it possible to enjoy music without disturbing roommates or other patients in the area.

Movies: Lighthearted comedies are often a welcome relief from the serious nature of a hospital stay.

Games: Card games, board games, crossword puzzles and other types of games are a quiet way to pass time.

Gifts of Comfort

Hospitals are not known for their comfort. Scratchy sheets, cold drafts, and bland food are just a few of the reasons that hospitals are less than comfortable. Making a hospital room a little more comfortable for your friend is a great goal for any gift you might give.

A new bathrobe may make walking the halls of the hospital a little less revealing. Hospital gowns are often slit up the back, showing more skin than many people are comfortable with. A bathrobe is good for covering up and keeping warm.

Slippers aren't just about style and keeping the feet warm, they are also good for safety. Walking around in socks can lead to slipping and falling, but slippers have traction, preventing injury.

A blanket does more than provide comfort, it can cheer up a room instantly. Not only are hospital linens stark white,but they are also often rough and scratchy, making a warm and comfortable blanket a cheery addition.

Your friend may be required to wear a hospital gown in some cases, but it is possible that they may be allowed to wear more comfortable pajamas, depending on their physical needs.

If your friend is allowed to wear something other than a hospital gown, they may appreciate having their own pajamas brought to them, or a gift of a new set of pajamas, slippers. or a bathrobe.

Gifts of Cheer

These items may bring some appreciated levity:

Get well card: A get well card is a great way to share your wishes for a quick recovery without breaking the bank. Don't feel obligated to buy a gift in order to visit a friend in the hospital, a card is perfectly appropriate with or without a present.

Balloons: If you aren't sure what to give, a get well balloon is a great gift when you aren't sure what the patient might want or what they are allowed to have in their room.

Gifts of Service

Your gift may not cost you a dime, only time and energy. For someone in the hospital, having someone willing to run an important errand or two may be the most valuable gift they receive. For example, they may need to have prescriptions filled prior to their discharge from the hospital.

If their hospitalization was unexpected, they may need someone to watch their dog, pick up dry cleaning, run errands or even help to arrange for childcare.

Gifts of Information

Your friend may need information about their condition, especially if they are newly diagnosed with an illness. For example, if your loved one was just diagnosed with diabetes, a book about living with diabetes may be useful. If your friend just delivered her first baby, she may appreciate a book for new moms.

Someone who just had their appendix removed might not have a great need for further education, but many patients can benefit from books that teach them how to better care for themselves.

Gifts That May Not Be Appropriate

There are some items that are restricted in certain areas of the hospital or for patients due to their conditions.


Fresh fruit may be restricted in certain areas of the hospital, particularly where individuals are having cancer treatment. If you are sure your friend is allowed to have fruit in the area where they are staying and they are permitted to eat fruit, fruit can be a welcome relief from hospital food.

Just be sure the patient to whom you are giving a present is allowed to eat fruit, otherwise, it is like teasing them with something they are not permitted to have.


Flowers are a great gift. For people who like flowers,a delivery can feel like a small ray of sunshine in their hospital room. Unfortunately, not everyone likes flowers. People who have respiratory issues, such as asthma, may be triggered by flowers and those who are sensitive to pollen should avoid them when possible.

If your friend is in an intensive care area of the hospital or if they are in an area where patients are having cancer treatment, flowers may not be appropriate.

The same is true for floors where respiratory problems are present, or a patient has an allergy. Flowers will likely not be permitted in the room in an ICU. A balloon (or two) makes a great substitute for flowers.

Food and Drink

Your loved one may or may not be allowed to eat and drink whatever they want while they are in the hospital.Before making a delivery that includes food or beverages, it is best to confirm that eating and drinking isn't being restricted.

If your friend is allowed to eat and drink whatever they find appealing, a gift of food or a favorite drink may be greatly appreciated.

Note: A person's appetite is often changed temporarily by illness, so you may want to inquire about their preferences, as they may be different than normal.


Other Helpful Resources:

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