If you look up the definition of hospitality, some of the key descriptors include friendliness, warmth, kindness and helpfulness. A fantastic way to show this type of hospitality outside the home is with a hospital visit. A hospital visit can make someone feel valued and appreciated and no one is more in need of this kind of hospitality than the friend or loved one who is hospitalized. When someone is hurting and in the hospital, it can be very intimidating to visit but it can also give the person you’re visiting a huge boost!
Here are some tips to take the edge of hospital visiting and ensure the best visit:
- Plan ahead – If possible, text (or call) the person to determine when would be a good time to visit and that they want visitors. It’s also kind to ask if there is anything in particular they need – toiletries, fresh socks, etc. Depending on how the patient was admitted, they may not actually know their room number, the best place to park or the best entrance to use so I recommend calling the main hospital line to figure out these details.
- Bring something to leave behind – A little gift or a treat is a great way to leave a little sunshine even after you depart. Here are three types of gifts that really lift the mood:
- Make the hospital room feel more like home – A picture of a favorite happy time or a drawing from a favorite child are great ways to warm up a hospital room. Gifts like a soft blanket, fuzzy socks or a new fleece or flannel pillowcase also make things feel a little less institutional and help the patient feel more “human”.
- Activity gifts – Movies, books (keep the subject matter light – this isn’t a time for Schindler’s List), magazines and craft projects that can be done in bed are all great options.
- Classic hospital gifts – If you’d like to bring balloons, food or flowers, its best to call the hospital operator and ask to be transferred to the nurses’ station assigned to the patient’s room to clarify what’s allowed. The nurse will know if patient can have outside food or flowers and many hospitals don’t allow latex balloons (Mylar are usually okay). I once arrived at my sister-in-law’s room with a beautiful bouquet from a local florist only to be greeted with a sign by her door saying that she was neutropenic (easily susceptible to illness) and flowers weren’t allowed. That was such a bummer! I will never make that mistake again!
- Leave the kiddos at home – Unless they are the patient’s kids or grandkids, its best to leave them at home when visiting. Visiting a hospital room tends to either be scary for kids or pique their curiosity. If you do bring them along, make sure to help them be on their best behavior. Nothing can add more stress to hospital visit than kids running around attempting to push the buttons on the machines. If you have to bring your kids, you should let your friend know and see if they are up for a stroll around the floor with the kids in a stroller. Depending on how they are feeling, they might welcome the opportunity to get moving.
- Let the patient drive the conversation – It’s always best to let the patient set the tone for the conversation. Sometimes they’ll want to talk about why they are in the hospital but they may want to talk about anything else! Try to avoid trite sayings like “God is in control” or “Everything happens for a reason”. It’s okay to just say, “I know this situation really sucks and I’m sorry you have to go through it. I’m praying for you everyday.” Sometimes they may want a pep talk but oftentimes they just want someone else to come alongside them and acknowledge the challenge they are facing. Most of all, people in the hospital don’t want to be forgotten.
- Be mindful of the time – There is no perfect length to a hospital visit but you should always be aware of the mood of the room. No matter how much a patient wants a visitor, they just may not have the stamina for a long conversation. Fifteen to thirty minutes is a great length. If you’re going to stay longer, it might be best to recommend an activity like watching a movie, reading a book aloud, or playing a game. All of these still give the patient a sense of “togetherness” without the stress of keeping up their end of the conversation.
- Don’t forget the caregiver – If a family member is staying in the room with the patient fulltime, its kind to bring a little something to lift their spirits too. You should also make it clear that while you’re there, the caregiver is welcome to take some time for his or herself. While people are visiting is a great time for them to hop in the shower, take a walk to get a break from the stress or make important phone calls.
- The needs don’t end just because someone is discharged – Don’t forget your friend after they are discharged! Call them up to see if you can help run errands, bring by a meal or do chores around their house. It’s surprising but hospitals are actually not very restful places so most people need a day or two to recoup from being in the hospital! There are lots of little ways you can help them ease back into the swing of things!
I hope these tips have taken some of the uneasiness out of hospital visiting! Please comment below if you have any great tips for visiting the hospital and spreading a little cheer to those not feeling their best! Remember Romans 12:13 – “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”