Care packages/other ideas for sister with baby in hospital
November 3, 2015 4:02 PM   Subscribe

What would be good things to put in a regular care package for a mom whose infant child will be in the hospital for the next indefinite period of time?

My nephew has some pretty serious heart issues and at almost 4 months has yet to come home. My sister's taken a year off of work to spend with him in the hospital while they wait for a heart transplant. I am, unfortunately, at the other end of the country from her.

Other than listening and providing a sympathetic ear, what would be some things I could send in a care package once a month or every couple of weeks to help her stay sane as she's going through this? Since said child is mostly confined by tubes, she has a lot of hours at the hospital where she is alone and doesn't have anyone to talk to, despite frequent visits and calls by friends and family.

She fortunately has a good support network there plus sympathetic people spread out around the country.
posted by eleanna to Human Relations (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is she sleeping in the hospital, or going home at the end of the day? Could you specify some of her likes/dislikes? (For example, coffee giftcards and magazines come to mind.) If she is traveling back and forth to the hospital every day, one thing to check on would be if the hospital charges parking fees -- that's something the network of sympathetic people could contribute to.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 4:12 PM on November 3, 2015

Magazine subscription. Physical letters of encouragement, maybe including something awesome you noticed her doing or being that maybe she can't see because she's too close to her own life. Something good-smelling and cozy-making - lotion, candle, bath bomb, whatever. If she's open to it, tools for a small, portable hobby like coloring or knitting. A paper journal and beautiful pen? Not a baby-specific journal; something for her. Nice slippers or socks. A gift card for gas or a restaurant local to the hospital. If she's sleeping there, anything food wise to bring respite from the eating experience in and around the hospital. A monthly subscription to some of these things - beauty products or fancy apples or something.
posted by linettasky at 4:28 PM on November 3, 2015

Does your sister have pets? Worrying about who will take care of the pets is something I've heard surprisingly often from families in the hospital. If she does and she doesn't have a long term solution figured out, that's definitely a huge way you could help (hiring a dogwalker or setting up rotation of local friends and families, for example).
posted by telegraph at 4:28 PM on November 3, 2015

An Amaryllis, Chia pet, or something else that grows.

Some kind craft (guide books, supplies) to keep her mind and hands busy. Knitting seems popular.

Nice slippers or socks.
Socks are always a good idea. Maybe a comfy cardigan if it's a cold climate.
posted by FallowKing at 4:34 PM on November 3, 2015

Sorry, yes, that would have been useful to add:

1) She is going home to sleep.
2) Likes...she's very creative. She does all different kinds of crafts/artwork. I thought about something on those lines but not sure what could be done in a hospital. She's into Dr. Who. She likes to read about history.
3) She does have a dog, who is unfortunately also sick.

Thanks for the good ideas so far.
posted by eleanna at 4:35 PM on November 3, 2015

Knitting is a great hospital craft. And if she's into Dr. Who, maybe get her the yarn for the scarf. That scarf is a commitment, though. Make sure it's something she'd want to do.
posted by imbri at 4:53 PM on November 3, 2015

My friends and I are super into adult coloring books lately. It's a relaxing hobby that doesn't take any actual energy. When my newborn was taken to the NICU the night he was born and I was feeling helpless and anxious, I desperately wished I'd brought my coloring book.

This book (and the others by the same artist) is wonderful. Colored pencils work great as the art supply part. I prefer fine tip Sharpies, but they can bleed through, so you sacrifice some pages.
posted by terilou at 4:55 PM on November 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

How about fancy shelf-stable snacks that she can keep in her bag or car, so she's not reliant on hospital food or granola bars? You could choose and send things yourself, or use one of the subscription services like Graze or Naturebox.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 5:24 PM on November 3, 2015

Gift cards to restaurants, delis, coffee shops, etc., in the area of the hospital

I wonder if the hospital has a way for you to pay her parking fees?

A Kindle, and then keep it loaded with books she might like

A tablet and Netflix

Nice journal and pens, and encourage her to write in it about her experience? (My daughter spent some time in the NICU. It's all such a blur 20 years later. I wish I had written more things down then.)

Can you help out with her Christmas shopping?
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:25 PM on November 3, 2015

An audio book by her favorite author.
posted by brujita at 5:43 PM on November 3, 2015

If her dog is also sick, is it possible to hire someone for dog care? It might help to take a bit of that care off her plate. I'm sorry to hear she's going through so much all at once.
posted by cestmoi15 at 5:51 PM on November 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

When my son was in the hospital as a small child (I think he was about 11 months old) the thing that got me through it all were books. It's a great escape. It's not mundane. It makes time pass very quickly and so on. I don't recommend it, but I picked a long book to gain my sanity, unfortunately it was the wrong book to do that. It was The Winds of War. It was certainly absorbing but not happily at all.

She sounds pretty freaking cool if she likes Dr. Who, so she obviously enjoys the sci-fi genre. You could also pick out books that offer hope through tragedy, or amusing books. Whatever will fill her time.

I wish her well.
posted by magnoliasouth at 6:23 PM on November 3, 2015

My child was in the hospital for half of her first year of life. Things I appreciated or would have liked to have:

Gift cards to restaurants around the hospital, especially ones that will deliver to the hospital
Parking vouchers
Subscription to Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime (if she can have a tablet/laptop at the bedside; sometimes they are not allowed for contamination reasons)
Verizon hotspot thingy if hospital wifi wouldn't work for that kind of streaming
Magazines and escape-y books
Healthy snacks
A coloring book and nice coloring pencils or markers

I would also encourage her to ask her social worker if there is a group of experienced heart families that she can talk with, or if there is a support group for current patients. Heart families are really, really big into that kind of thing, and hospitals are becoming more focused on patient family-centered care, which includes helping to make these kinds of connections.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:59 PM on November 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

If you like the coloring book idea, there's a huge range of them aimed at adults these days -- e.g. the series by Theo Nicole Lorenz that includes Unicorns are Jerks and others. (Check the previews)
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:12 PM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

I sent my family a box of about 40 single serving 'healthy snacks' from Amazon. They got eaten.
posted by bq at 7:28 PM on November 3, 2015

NatureBox snacks.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:32 PM on November 3, 2015

An iPad or tablet, especially if she likes to read about history. I can spend an entire day digging through and there is so much to read on the internet. During stressful times though, sometimes I need to read People or US Weekly because that's all the brain energy I have. Maybe digital subscriptions to gossip magazine sites or an Amazon gift card for kindle books or magazines.
posted by bendy at 8:12 PM on November 3, 2015

If she has an iPad, iTunes/App Store gift cards would be good. And an extra charger or two.

When nanopanda was in the hospital, at times when I was too worried to focus on a book but needed to blank my mind out, I liked the "pocket posh" series of puzzle books - pretty covers, pocket sized, nice paper, and a variety of different types. The one that was a word search with clues for the words to find was my favorite because it hit the right balance of using a little bit of brain power but not too much.
posted by telepanda at 3:53 AM on November 4, 2015

If she's artsy, recommend a needlepoint kit if she can't knit already. The kits come in many patterns, and you can get ones that are pillow covers, which could be homey and comforting.
posted by zennie at 7:18 AM on November 4, 2015

When my 3wo spent a stint in the hospital I worried most about my older child, and about the things at home that I couldn't take off my husband's plate. So, meals, bill-paying, following up with our well-meaning support network (although facebook took care of most of that, and posting updates made my husband feel like he was doing something, when there was nothing else he could do).

I needed a good, fast phone charger at the hospital (I used my Kindle charger; it's the fastest charger I've ever had). I needed good headphones, as I often listened to something on my phone while I tried to nap, in order to drown out other hospital noises and people walking in and out. A sleeping mask would have been nice. A sleeping mask would have been nice. They gave me non-slip socks at the hospital, but comfy socks would have been nice.

A good recording device is helpful, as there are many people talking to you, and sometimes you are not in a state of mind to remember all of the details. A good camera and storage can be useful. You wouldn't think you'd want to take pictures at the hospital, but every baby hits milestones and everyone wants a keepsake of those moments.

Maybe some brain teaser puzzles, or a subscription to a brain teaser magazine (with connect the dots, word finders, etc) would be useful.
posted by vignettist at 8:00 AM on November 4, 2015

Cross-stitching kit! You can get one pre-assembled at any craft store; Etsy also has an excellent selection of fun patterns (including many Dr. Who-themed ones); you usually just buy a PDF of the pattern, but I bet if you started a convo with a seller and explained your situation they could help you assemble the other necessary materials.

I like cross-stitch because it's simple, rhythmic, and VERY easy to put down if you get interrupted/need to take a break.
posted by sarahsynonymous at 5:34 PM on November 4, 2015

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