Care package for teen in hospital?
February 23, 2017 6:16 AM   Subscribe

Have you been a teen living in a hospital for an extended period of time with no specific known end point due to a very serious medical issue? What would you have liked in a care package? Also would you have appreciated a semi-awkward visit from a relative you don't know all that well, or would rather just have seen the people you love and care about most?

(Food is not an option, money has already been donated).

So far all I can think are iTunes/Amazon gift cards and maybe (gasp) a real paperback book or two, and some kind of funky artwork to decorate. Any other ideas?
posted by wannabecounselor to Human Relations (29 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
When I was in the hospital I loved my coloring books as a gift. Soothing and didn't require as much energy as reading (not sure how sick he is) - mid twenty something
posted by pando11 at 6:20 AM on February 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

Origami craft kit? Create models to keep and give away.
posted by mountainblue at 6:29 AM on February 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Depends how sick.

I'm a young adult woman with some interests that overlap those of teens... When I was in the hospital I wasn't terribly sick but also not up for reading. The best care package I received was composed entirely of drugstore items, each individually wrapped. (Unwrapping was at least a 15 minute activity for me.) The best item in the box was a scrubby face wash that made me feel really fresh and clean.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 6:30 AM on February 23, 2017 [8 favorites]

I know if I were stuck in one place for an unknown amount of time, I'd appreciate board games -- especially ones that are soloable and/or fit on the small table space a hospital room would provide.
posted by jozxyqk at 6:32 AM on February 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Kindle (you can get a used one from amazon for $51) + ebooks or ebook vouchers...
posted by Sockpuppets 'R' Us at 6:45 AM on February 23, 2017

When I was in the hospital/recovering from surgery/going in to the hospital somewhat regularly for tests in my early 20s, I enjoyed fashion magazines. Much less effort to read and page through than books.

My then 90-year-old great-aunt got me a sexy nighty which I was both incredibly embarrassed by and thought was the most hilarious thing in the world. My dad's cousin (in his late 50s) who I knew but not very well came and visited, which I appreciated. (Note though, that this was very much reflective of my dad's extended family dynamic: which has a very strong you show up for stuff, dang it, ethos. You know your own family dynamic best.)
posted by damayanti at 7:00 AM on February 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


- comfy bed socks;

- hospitals are very noisy, and noise is horrible when you're sick/in pain/exhausted. Earmuffs or noise-cancelling headphones are good;

- a machine washable cuddly plush blanket;

- a face mask to block out light.
posted by Sockpuppets 'R' Us at 7:02 AM on February 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

I had the latchhook rug I'd been working on brought over.
posted by brujita at 7:02 AM on February 23, 2017

Room decorations are popular. Band posters, sports stuff, whatever they'd normally like in their bedroom.
posted by teremala at 7:07 AM on February 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

My son appreciated headphones & music when he was in hospital last year. Also chargers and/or battery packs for whatever plays the music. Also my 3G modem for his Spotify connection, because the hospital's own network was unreliable. Also magazines. It was during the Olympics, so whatever time of day or night he turned on the TV, there was always something interesting to watch - at home he'd normally be watching youtube on phone or ipad, but it was easier for him to focus on a TV screen.

Awkward visits from distant family members don't get any less awkward in a hospital than they are in any other setting. Nice that people want to visit, but IMHO it's often as much for the visitor's benefit as for the patient's.

Seconding room decorations - a flag for my son's favourite football team got a lot of conversations going with staff & other patients & their families, whether they support the same team or others.
posted by rd45 at 7:15 AM on February 23, 2017 [4 favorites]

I have been....all teenagers are so different of course, but things that I appreciated:

- books books books. Ones that you can really get lost in. These days, maybe a kindle, loaded with some of the more interesting free classics and a good selection of some lighter stuff (or maybe a suggestions list and a voucher?)
- Games...but these days everyone has them on their phone/iPad I suppose?
- Art materials (not spillable) ...a good set of coloured pencils, a few sketchbooks, ideally with different papers and colours.
- I didn't have this but a small plug-in essential oil vaporiser would have been amazing. Hospitals don't smell great. If impossible/not permitted, a few bottles of essential oils and a bit of carrier oil or small spray.
- A nice soft scarf/shawl/blanket to wear around shoulders sitting up.
- You would need to be sure what you're doing here but if you have a good handle on styles a hat/ headgear would have been great. Hair seems to always be a mess in hospital.
- A craft project if possible? Things to make are good. Things to make for a reason even better (e.g. charity knit projects)
- things to do with your hands e.g. learning knots
- Intricate and beautiful art prints to put on the wall (if permitted). Perhaps art books of that kind too. Ideally not too large and heavy but this does depend on circumstances. If you can sit up and have a table on the bed, a big, beautiful book is a lovely thing to have.
- Plants for the room, textiles to put over surfaces to make them more homely
- Good quality headphones (on preview ...noise cancelling would be amazing)
- perhaps some form of kinetic art, or mobile, or something that projects.
- small fun toiletries - perhaps something like birchbox?

It's really nice of you to care. It wasn't a great experience, being in hospital long-term as a teen. I think I appreciated postcards and posted gifts better than visits a lot of the time - you're not feeling your best and it can be awkward having a visitor as you say. There is so little to talk about. If it's a long visit, spacing them out would be particularly good - a weekly small care package would be a lovely thing to receive. Good luck to your young relative x
posted by tardigrade at 7:24 AM on February 23, 2017 [5 favorites]

Assuming they already have all the devices they need, i'd make sure they have enough power and chargers to make sure they can keep using them. Extension cord, usb plugs, extra charging cables, even portable batteries that can hold 2+ phone charges each. If there's wifi, an iTunes/GooglePlay gift card and/or making sure they have a Netflix subscription. Headphones that are comfy to wear in bed.

Also echoing the above and because I've always loved blankets - a fuzzy, washable blanket!
posted by cgg at 7:35 AM on February 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

A window prism is always fun, no matter who you are.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:40 AM on February 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Some cozy sleep-headphones might make it more comfortable to listen to music while laying in a hospital bed, and would somewhat decrease the number of wires that invariably get tangled in other wires/things. The band can also be pulled over the eyes to act as a sleeping mask while still listening to the headphones, which might be helpful in a bright hospital room. I think all these elements would have been nice during my time in the hospital.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 7:59 AM on February 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Awkward visits from distant family members don't get any less awkward in a hospital than they are in any other setting. Nice that people want to visit, but IMHO it's often as much for the visitor's benefit as for the patient's.

I really have nothing to draw on except my experience in a similar situation. Mileage will vary of course, but I spent a couple weeks in the hospital after breaking my femur and having surgery and all that. Granted, I was an uptight anal teenager to start with, but visits from people felt really invasive. I felt and looked like shit, had to shit in a bedpan or pee in a bottle, had IVs and cables and shit everywhere, and hadn't had any real sleep because nurses bother you every 10 minutes for some damn thing or other. I was super uncomfortable and cranky and hurt, and I hated it every time some one came to visit.

I liked having music I could listen to, and a bunch of light reading. I was tired a lot, so only really had 10-15 minutes or so of attention before dozing off. The novels were too much work - I was tired, and the drugs made remembering things hard. But the magazines were great. I got an anthology of short stories and that was also really good. I would have loved to have had my nintendo or game system. Cards with money were also really appreciated.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:02 AM on February 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

I asked my friend who has stayed in the hospital long term before.
She says:
Grippy socks, toiletries, lounge clothes/robe or clothing that is nice and not pajamas but comfortable to wear in bed, magazine subscription for super long term stays or a stack of magazines for medium term, tablet, media (netflix subscription if they don't have it, itunes giftcards, etc), gift cards for on site but not included hospital services like the hair salon. Your relative may like money for or appreciate it if you could bring any small items they can't get for themselves.

My friend says she loved visits from just about anybody but that it's important to call first and arrange a time or just check in to see if it's ok to come. One of the things that happens when people are in the hospital is a loss of personal agency. Things like calling first, asking if they have toiletry/media requests, and salon services can help with that.

My friend also says that people who had cards, flowers, etc tended to receive better care. The differences in levels of care provided were not necessarily intentional, but real.
posted by Verba Volant at 8:07 AM on February 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Audio books with noise cancelling/isolating earphones. Sometimes it's too much effort to sit and read, and being able to zone out and just listen is nice.
And maybe sleep headphones-they can be so much more comfortable when you're in bed.
posted by k8oglyph at 9:04 AM on February 23, 2017

Seconding rd45, tunes. In my short hospital stay (20 years ago), I enjoyed having a walkman-style radio+music player. It blocks out the noise of the hospital where a TV adds to it. Having radio also makes it possible to get news, sports, opinions, etc. I suppose that a cell phone is good for a lot of that now, although free WiFi might be inadequate for some things.

I also agree with k8oglyph about audio books.
posted by SemiSalt at 9:26 AM on February 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

The extra battery packs for the phone are great. I was in the hospital recently for a few nights, and those saved me. I was able to watch all the Netflix I wanted, and listen to music at night, without ever worrying about my phone running out of batteries or being out of my reach.

Also the SleepPhones linked above are great. Way more comfortable than regular headphones if you're wearing them for a long time.
posted by radioamy at 9:50 AM on February 23, 2017

I'm no teen, but there's a young adult book I really like about two girls with Crohn's Disease who share a hospital room, which might normalize the experience for your teen (particularly if female). It's called Two Girls Staring At the Ceiling.

As an adult in hospital, having downloaded some dharma talks from was what kept me sane, since hospitals are so damn loud and uncomfortable!

Recently, I tried a Paint By Sticker book as a fiddle toy while I binge watched The Night Of. LOVED IT. I did a fine art one. If you do give this fun crafty thing to your teen, make sure to include a pair of tweezers. Essential!
posted by janey47 at 9:55 AM on February 23, 2017

Maybe postcards from your area? Sometimes just getting mail is nice, and postcards can be displayed. A friend of mine who has been essentially bedridden for a few years loves getting postcards. Maybe a small corkboard to display stuff like that.

If your teen is up to it, maybe a gift card for pizza or ice cream, or a DVD of a new movie - something that can be shared with a few friends in her room. Anything you can do to help get her friends in to visit - bus or subway passes, even giving them rides.

A body pillow. A nice firm pillow for sitting up. A stuffed animal for holding onto.

Graphic novels. If she reads comics, arrange for her to get the new issues as soon as they come out.

Fun audiobooks (I recommend Discworld - really well performed, great stories, really funny).

Really, really nice shampoo/conditioner/soap, salon quality. Nothing she would ever get normally.

Fidget toys, those office desk toys.
posted by Archipelago at 9:56 AM on February 23, 2017

Pediatric hospitals are better than regular hospitals in terms of ambience and fun, but they're still not home. Room decor is a big thing with long-stay teens. Maybe some decal-style frames for photos or some artwork that can be hung with command hooks? (Flat surfaces for things like table photos are often in short supply in hospital rooms) . The other thing is that hospital gowns are The Worst, but often regular clothes don't work either because they don't have the right kind of openings for easy access to chemo ports, feeding tubes, IVs, etc.

Some colorful grippy-bottom socks would also be good, because the rooms are chilly, the floors are slick, and the hospital-issued ones are always beige.

If you're feeling motivated you could get in touch with the Child Life coordinator and see if there are any small additions you could make to the fun quotient for the hospital, like buying games for the hospital game system.

Finally, I'd say go visit. It is incredibly boring to be in the hospital and visitors are nice even if you don't know them that well. Just be alert to signs of fatigue.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 11:52 AM on February 23, 2017

Magazines, books, puzzle, cologne. Amazon gift cert. If they don't have a smart/ mobile phone, you can get a used Android cheap, or a chromebook, for music, reading, and especially games. Depending on the illness, some good chocolate or other candy. Personally, the best gift I ever got while in hospital was a container of perfectly ripe melon. Yes, I would visit, it's very kind. Ask about favorite foods, maybe visit again with McDonald's fries, a really great burger, a shake, or other favorites. Hospital food can be very boring.
posted by theora55 at 2:14 PM on February 23, 2017

When my kid was a teen and stuck in a hospital like environment she was thrilled and happy when I asked if she wanted any friends to visit. And I picked up her two best friends and brought them over to see her and made myself scarce while they visited. It's often hard for teens who don't drive to visit people in hospitals, even people they might want to see. So if you would be willing to organize such a thing, make that offer. And then the teen in question can give you a thumbs up or thumbs down. And also the names of the person or people they would like to invite. You are being kind and thoughtful. Go you!
posted by Bella Donna at 2:58 PM on February 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

Please don't visit unless the teen herself has enthusiastically requested your presence. I had to entertain relatives in my hospital room and it was torture -- I didn't want to see them, I was tired and in pain, I was in my pajamas, and I had to perform joy and gratitude for them because they thought they were doing me a favor by being there.

Real books, both trashy popular novels and puzzle books (crosswords, sudoku, etc) were the best presents I got. Maybe the youth of today have evolved beyond this but I went through a long phase of being too tired to engage with screens, but could pleasantly sit with a book in my lap.

If you send anything, please include a note saying you do not expect a thank you note in return. I liked everything I received but I felt a near pathological need to send thank you notes at a time when I really did not have the energy to do so.
posted by telegraph at 3:14 PM on February 23, 2017

I came in to suggest reaching out to the person via email or text.

Sometimes, when people don't feel like interacting personally, they still want to have communication electronically. You could email and say that you know you're not close but you are really thinking of them, is there any thing they need, and would they like to play Words with Friends, or keep in touch? Tell them where you are at in your life (just not all at once). It might be a better relationship/friendship in the making.

Knowing there is someone else at the end of the phone can be a comfort.
posted by Youremyworld at 5:02 PM on February 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Light magazines -- People, US Weekly, Cosmo, whatever -- and puzzle magazines (with the sudoku and crosswords and so on) are always good. You can read short, page-long articles even when you feel like shit.

Can you ask the parent for a read on a visit? A lot of folks get bored and are happy for ANY kind of visit; others, it's very stressful to have relative strangers.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:44 PM on February 23, 2017

Coming back to say that when I was in the hospital (although I am a long way from being a teen), what made me happiest was when a MeFite brought me decent food. For me, that was containers of fresh, cut up mango, papaya, and some guacamole. But damn near anything is better than hospital food.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:01 PM on February 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

My niece has been in and out of hospital since she was 12, and that was 17 years ago. Sometimes a few days, very often 6-8 weeks, once for 5 months (although she was maybe 20 or 21 for that).

She hated visits from extended family for the longer stays - she felt like crap, didnt want to be on display, couldn't make the effort of conversation. Anything after a week or so, she was only up for her parents, sister, and later boyfriend.

She enjoyed postcards or funny note cards, jigsaw puzzles, netflix, trashy magazines that didnt require concentration. She learned to knit during one of the stints, tried origami, i think took up coloring in her latest stay.

posted by darsh at 9:09 PM on February 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

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