What to send to someone in rehab?
September 11, 2012 7:50 AM   Subscribe

Someone who I have never met personally but who has been very generous with me in the past is in an inpatient rehab facility (for alcohol). I'd like to send her a care package. What the heck should I include?

This person is the adult daughter of a work friend. She's experienced a lot of upheaval in her life in the last two years and ended up moving with her two kids into my coworker's house. When she heard we were becoming foster parents, she sent us all of the duplicate stuff they ended up with when she moved in with her mom - and the stuff she sent filled an SUV twice. We got easily a thousand dollars' worth of baby and little kid gear (bouncers, swings, monitors, a Sleep Sheep, a Boppy, a Bumbo, bins of clothes), most of it in perfect shape. She wouldn't take a dollar for any of it.

I'd like to send her a care package. I've spoken to my friend about it and she thinks it's a great idea; when I asked about items NOT to send, she said nothing with alcohol (duh) or caffeine (wouldn't have thought of that). I can't find a website for the facility, so I couldn't find a detailed list of "things not to send."

My thoughts so far are to send the following things or types of things:
- Really nice lip balm and lotion.
- A fancy-ass notebook and a nice pen.
- Some nice bamboo knitting needles and decent yarn, already cast on for a scarf. (My friend says the daughter is "learning to knit" and in my experience casting on is the hardest thing to learn.)
- Fuzzy socks.
- Sudoku or crossword puzzle books.
- A bag of non-chocolate candy like Starburst or Skittles or something.
- A jar of homemade apple butter.
- A book? (No idea what her tastes in books are, and I don't want to send her something that screams YOU'RE IN REHAB like one of those godawful Chicken Soup books, so suggestions for a book would be great.)

I have very, very limited knowledge of day-to-day life in rehab, so if you have any insight I'd be glad to hear it. Is anything on my list a terrible idea? Is there anything else that would be totally perfect? What am I not thinking of?
posted by SeedStitch to Human Relations (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Depending on the facility, they may not allow anything breakable/glass or anything in which the inpatient could harm themselves and/or homemade things, so make sure you're not going to give her something that the folks there will have to discard.

I'd say books or games or magazines are a great idea, because the hours in any mental health facility are long and boring.
posted by xingcat at 8:07 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You said you couldn't find a website for the facility, which implies you know which facility this is. Since your friend already told you where her daughter is, can she give you the phone number so you can call and directly ask which items are and are not permitted?

On to recommendations:
-a bunch of school-style marble notebooks for her to journal, doodle, whatever. Maybe better than a fancy notebook because then she won't feel guilty about not writing "profound and important" things in it.
-Definitely magazines and books. Find out what she likes to read - just get the cheap paperback versions you see people reading at the beach or on airplanes.
-Depending on how nice the facility is, she might appreciate something scented (candle, plugin air freshener, etc) to make it seem more cozy. Of course if it's higher-end they already have this covered.
-Personal care stuff. Luxurious body wash with a quality mesh poof or sponge, good lotion for after the shower, moisturizing hand cream, etc. If they allow the supplies needed, maybe buy or put together a mani-pedi kit too.
posted by trivia genius at 8:21 AM on September 11, 2012

Best answer: I like the idea of sending her a book. What is your favorite book? Something with an interesting protagonist that maybe overcomes some kind of adversity?

Maybe also send her a nice, hand-written letter about how nice it was of her to send you those baby/kid things with a couple stories of how they were used. Maybe some funny stories and a picture of kid using one of the items?

I also like the idea of needles and yarn. Maybe a small knitting project package of instructions plus the yarn necessary for it. A lovely ball of soft, pretty yarn always cheers me up. :)
posted by jillithd at 8:22 AM on September 11, 2012

Can you visit and give her a knitting lesson?
posted by yarly at 8:32 AM on September 11, 2012

Nthing reading material and puzzle mags. Knitting needles will probably not be allowed as they are considered sharp objects.
posted by brujita at 8:34 AM on September 11, 2012

Best answer: Crayons and coloring books and plain paper to color on.

Send a card every now and again, they have a lot of nice "hang in there" cards. Encouragement is much appreciated in rehab.

Chewy or hard candies are perfect. You get a lot of kinetic energy when in rehab and the chewing or crunching really helps. I like milk duds or one of those big tubs of red licorice you get at Costco.

Instead of knitting, perhaps crochet (unless they encourage knitting, in which case, love the idea.)

A couple of decks of cards. The folks in the Methadone clinic my dad ran used to play Spades all day. (Hence I now enjoy playing Spades all day.) Include paper and pens to keep score.

As for books, perhaps P.G. Wodehouse or Agatha Christie might be something light. Carrie Fisher's Post Cards from the Edge? (that one is dicey, but it's a great book.)

An individual electronic Scrabble game (I love the one I downloaded for my phone.)
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:51 AM on September 11, 2012

Best answer: I think a book would be great. Maybe -- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society? Just thinking of feel-good books that are literary and accessible.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:58 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mmm, crochet hooks will be considered sharps as well. When I was hospitalized for depression, craft tools were allowed, but they were locked away and someone from the nurses' station had to get them for you if you wanted to work on your project, which had to be done in the Occupational Therapy room or on the benches in front of the nurses' station.
posted by brujita at 9:10 AM on September 11, 2012

Best answer: To go with the cards, can you send a copy of Hoyle or something that teaches rules for a bunch of new, different card games? If she doesn't already know very many then she'd be able to learn how to play some new ones with other people at the center.

I also really like the idea of a handwritten note that gives some specific stories about the kids you are fostering getting good use of out the items she gave. Pictures if you are allowed to do that, but otherwise some funny stories.
posted by handful of rain at 9:31 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Maybe the book by Cheryl Strayed called Dear Sugar: Advice on Love and Life. It's profound, healing, entertaining, beautiful. I don't think it would be triggering or anything but you might want to look at it first.
posted by tacoma1 at 9:33 AM on September 11, 2012

A book?

Mr. Blues teaches summer school at a rehab facility for teens, and it is surprisingly difficult to find acceptable books that avoid discussion of drug and alcohol use in a glorifying way.

The rules might be particularly strict since the clients are minors, but you might want to give the facility a call to see if there are any guidelines for written material.
posted by charmcityblues at 9:56 AM on September 11, 2012

Best answer: Speaking from personal experience, an inpatient rehab isn't a mental institution. If someone is a threat enough to themselves to require distance from sharp objects, it's unlikely they would be in the average rehab. Of course, you could call first if you are unsure, but I don't think this is a concern you should have.

The biggest downside to rehab is boredom, so let this guide your choice along with your knowledge of some things she may enjoy. Food is taken care of, as well as any other necessities. Books are a very good place to start. I spent a bunch of money out of my account at the book store, and I was particularly interested in books like "A Million Little Pieces" (which is still a good book in this vein, even if patently untrue) as it hit particularly close to home at the time. Your original Notebook suggestion is quite good, but it depends on the length on the "curriculum" of the center. Sometimes there is a decent amount of treatment work so these can come in handy, but others have mostly lectures to endure listen to.

My personal preference, however, was cigarettes, and a lot of them. Granted, that is completely dependent on whether she smokes, and if the specific center allows them, and you should certainly call first to see if they are allowed if she is indeed a smoker.
posted by Debaser626 at 10:05 AM on September 11, 2012

Best answer: When I'm sick all I want to read is mind candy like mysteries.
posted by fshgrl at 10:51 AM on September 11, 2012

Best answer: A pasmina would be appreciated if the faculty is cold due to the air conditioning. It's also something she could use after her stay.
posted by 1smartcookie at 11:37 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, all, for the suggestions.

As far as I'm aware, the woman in question is in a dedicated rehab facility, not a mental institution or lockdown. My friend did tell me that her daughter is "learning to knit" - current tense - which makes me think the knitting needles will be fine. (I mentioned these specifically to the friend as something I was considering sending, and the friend did not say anything about them being a problem.)

I didn't consider the glass being a possible problem, but the package will be hand-delivered the next time my friend goes to visit, so if there's an issue with it, she can always send it back with my friend. She's out of state, so a visit to work on knitting with her isn't really possible for me. I REALLY like the idea of sending a picture of her stuff being enjoyed by our kid, and will definitely be including a heartfelt note.

I'll grab a few notebooks, activity books, and trade paperbacks. Thanks for the specific book suggestions; I'm planning to stay away from anything dealing with recovery and addiction (like James Frey or Carrie Fisher) because I have no idea where she is in her process and don't want to send her potential triggers, but will try to find some good fiction for her.

Love the idea for a book on card games and a pashmina! Please feel free to keep suggesting things; I've looked around a lot online and there are very few lists I could find that suggested things to send to someone in rehab.
posted by SeedStitch at 11:55 AM on September 11, 2012

In the same vein as the pashmina-- bedsocks! These are extra-cozy socks, often with grippy stuff on the sole. Mine are a serious life improver, and I don't even live in a place with institutional linoleum floors.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 12:59 PM on September 11, 2012

How about a collection of cartoons? Something funny and light like Calvin and Hobbes. When I've been in a depression (I know she might not be depressed, but might still have difficulty concentrating), I've found it difficult to read, but it's nice to have something to flick through.
posted by Dorothea_in_Rome at 1:07 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

For books, James Herriott is light, safe, touching and almost universally enjoyed- at least, I've never heard of anyone reading one of his books and not liking it.

Nthing the idea of descriptions and pictures of the kids using the toys- adorable!

I doubt if knitting needles will be a problem if she's in a facility where people voluntarily check themselves in. Knitting stuff sounds like a great idea.

Chapstick, conditioner and good hand/body lotion. Institutional environments tend to be super-dry and stuff like chapstick gets used up/lost/stolen pretty easily.


But I think an accepting, chatty, friendly letter that makes her feel normal- like she's just away at the seaside and you want to tell her about life- will be a great help.
posted by windykites at 4:46 PM on September 11, 2012

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