TOP TEN GIFTS FOR THE HOUSEBOUND AND HOSPITALIZED
10. The gift of connection.
Being in the hospital, or stuck indoors at home, disconnects people from their normal lives. However limited their capabilities, they need to know that they are still part of the outside world. If the patient has access to a telephone, a short daily call can work wonders. Do some research about the patient's schedule, and ask at what time a call would be most appreciated.
When you visit, bring a newspaper, magazine, pictures, or tidbits of news. Keep it light and simple. A photo album, digital picture frame, or scrap book of family and friends can help the patient feel closer to loved ones.
A visitor's book beside the bed is helpful for creating a diary of care and concern. If a visitor comes while the patient is asleep of receiving treatment, s/he can leave a note. Comments left by visitors can be enjoyed again and again.
9. The gift of flowers.
This is the traditional get-well gift. However, half a dozen floral arrangements in a limited space may not be too much of a good thing. Check out the situation before placing your order at the florist's. During a long illness, it might be better to wait until later, when public interest has lessened.
Consider the possibility of a plant, a stuffed toy, a decorative pillow, or a pair of colorful bed socks instead.
8. The gift of distraction.
Anything that takes the person's mind off their situation has therapeutic potential. Puzzles, card and board games, books, art supplies, videos (if the equipment to view them is available), hand-held video games, knitting, crocheting or embroidery supplies, and craft kits can all be helpful. If it is feasible, do something together.
A tape recorder or CD player with headphones can give the patient access to music, relaxation programs, and talking books. S/he may also enjoy listening to you read or sing.
7. The gift of luxury.
Ahhhhh! Think spa and pampering. Toiletries, cosmetics, foot care sets, silky bathrobes, scarves or pillows, a sleep mask to shut out the light, a glittery piece of jewelry, some pate de foie and crackers, an aromatherapy candle, a facial, a manicure, a new hairdo, or a gentle foot massage can all help the patient feel uplifted. Check with the caregivers ahead of time to verify the appropriateness of your intended gifts.
6. The gift of communication.
Pretty note paper with stamped envelopes and a pen may encourage the patient to contact friends. A journal provides a place to record thoughts. If writing is a pain, how about recording messages on a tape recorder? If the patient is shut-in at home, s/he may appreciate the gift of a pay-as-you go cellphone or a cordless phone. A disposable camera will allow the patient to make a visual record of this chapter of the life journey.
5. The gift of convenience. Reach extenders, storage bags, and ergonomic tools and gadgets can make life easier. A housebound person will appreciate appropriate food items which require minimal preparation.
4. The gift of comfort. A warm, fuzzy blanket and slippers, a shawl or a lap quilt can warm not only the body, but the heart. A "magic bag" which can be heated in the microwave provides safe, cozy warmth for sore joints and muscles. A real or simulated sheepskin pad reduces pressure sores.
Familiar food treats connect us with home. Find out if there are any dietary restrictions, and show up at the bedside with gourmet coffee, a goody basket, or a steaming bowl of chili to replace hospital fare.
3. The gift of laughter. Zany slippers, a humorous book, a silly video, or one of your own comic performances can help the patient forget the harsh realities of life. The work initiated by Norman Cousins has proved that laughter causes therapeutic biochemical changes in the body.
2. The gift of service. Push a wheel chair (if employee union rules permit). Re-arrange furniture. Walk with the patient. Fetch and carry. Offer to help with cleaning, cooking, laundry, and practical nursing duties. Run errands, make phone calls, research helpful resources. Do what you can to make life easier and reduce worry.
1. The gift of presence. Be there. The greatest gift we can give is focused attention. Listen. Validate the patient's feelings, even if you find them distressing. Remember that speech is silver and silence is golden. Offer a prayer (silently or aloud, depending on the person's preferences.) Hold his or her hand if s/he enjoys being touched. Sometimes the best thing you can do is simply sit quietly. Even if the patient is asleep, your presence provides reassurance that s/he is not alone.