Useful Gift for Family in Crisis
September 14, 2019 6:05 PM   Subscribe

An acquaintance from my teen years got in touch for support because I'm one of the few people he knows local to the hospital where he's getting his cancer treatment. It's a really bad type of cancer. I'd like to send something to his wife back home and could use mefite suggestions. Lots more details inside.

They're not telling other, closer friends yet because of the speed with which he's having to seek massive treatment, and because they don't have the emotional bandwidth. Lots of family knows, though.

This friend is so naturally self effacing that he certainly doesn't want anything for himself while he's in the hospital, but he just keeps talking about how he wants the best for his wife and kids (age 2 and 4).

Since I'm part of his support in the city where he's getting treatment, I'd like to send something to help his wife feel acknowledged by someone who's near her husband in this unbelievably stressful time, and to help provide emotional support since I'm one of the few people who knows. My first thought is flowers, but flowers die. (And would likely wither before he's finished with treatment.)

What would you send?
posted by ocherdraco to Human Relations (11 answers total)
This might be outside of your price range, but one big gift would be a way for the family, especially the little ones, to feel connected. So, I thought a digital photo frame could be great. It might look like it is really for your friend since it would be in his room, but really it is a super easy way for his wife to help the kids stay connected but sending special pictures to Dad. Since the frame will automatically upload them, your friend can see the latest pictures without having to do anything and the kids will have a positive way to keep connected.
posted by metahawk at 6:25 PM on September 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

A totally different option would be a gift certificate to a food delivery service like door dash that will food to magically show up at the house when needed.
posted by metahawk at 6:26 PM on September 14, 2019 [9 favorites]

I've gone with care packages in the past. I try to pack in a variety of small things that are likely to appeal to different family members - adult coloring book and colored pencils, teas, coffees, scarves, books, chocolates, snacks, lotions, sheet masks, small toys, etc.

Do you have her number? Texting or calling might be a nice gesture, if you don't already communicate.

Thanks for being present for your friend and his family. I hope all goes well.
posted by bunderful at 6:52 PM on September 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

Could you help him use the RecordMeNow app?
posted by eierschnee at 7:14 PM on September 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

Food delivery/Dinner delivery service. Kids that young, she'll need a break.
posted by Toddles at 7:17 PM on September 14, 2019

put them in touch with lotsa helping hands for local friends
posted by brujita at 7:28 PM on September 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

Anything you can do to keep them connected will obviously be most appreciated. But I understand wanting to send a little something.

I think the easiest thing would be semi-healthy food that can fill her up without having to cook -- like gourmet candied nuts, that sort of thing. The other big thing would be anything that helps keep the kids entertained. My three year old would sit quietly for 45 minutes (!) if you sent him this (a coloring book with a million stickers) or this (invisible ink coloring book -- that one comes with markers). Honestly if the kids' present came "from Dad," that would be really nice. Maybe coordinate with him to make that happen?
posted by slidell at 9:30 PM on September 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

My husband was in the hospital earlier this year, with a serious illness. He's recovered now, thankfully, but was off work for at least 4 weeks afterward.

I relied on friends for support. Most were great, one said something like my husband should have seen the signs and I should get him checked for brain disorders. That person is no longer my friend.

My good friends were there to listen. If I had small children, any kind of help would be nice, such as asking if they needed a break and offering to babysit. If that's not possible, simply ask what they need, or ask the husband, if he's capable of offering advice.

Some nice healthy treats, like a fruit bouquet (I'd beware of gifting nuts to folks with small children, as you don't know if they have allergies, and nuts are a choking hazard), but a food delivery service where they can choose the food would be nice. Or maybe some stuffed animals for the kids, a throw blanket for the patient (if he's going to chemo), and a card saying to call if his wife needs to talk (maybe a nice treat like some nice chocolate or herbal teas and fancy cookies for her?), then let them take the lead. When a family member found out they needed brain tumor surgery, they were very focused on the treatment and asked people to refrain from contacting them during that time period, as like you said, having the emotional bandwith to have to explain things to people or even feel obligated to give up time to deal with inquiries was too much for them (surgery was successful, btw). I'd make one gesture like that and then step back and wait for them to contact you if they need more support.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 2:12 AM on September 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think your idea of flowers is still a good one. Sometimes it’s just special to receive a beautiful bouquet of flowers when everything else is feeling grey.

If the wife does any sort of crafts, you could work with a local craft store to get a package put together for her.

Gift certificates to a food delivery or car service like Uber (if the wife will be driving back and forth to the airport a lot).
posted by sallybrown at 4:27 AM on September 15, 2019

This will sound silly but the hospital gift shop may have branded kids' clothes, sippy cups, light blankets they can take to bed or use to cuddle with mom, or other things that demystify daddy's absence. Add in a kids' book or two esp. if there's something by a local author or set in your city. Include some travel-safe foods from your friend's meal trays that he doesn't feel like eating (store-bought works too) so they can have a snack "with daddy." Maybe take a picture of him in his bed or infusion chair making a heart shape/peace sign/silly face/whatever he does with his kids. Make three prints and he can write a personal note to each of them on the backs. Another pic idea is the view from his window.

This may be more intimate than you were planning but as his only friend in the city where he is, you are in a position to help him stay connected to his family while he's there.
posted by headnsouth at 4:41 AM on September 15, 2019

No offense but a lot of the typical suggestions for keeping people in hospital connected to their loved ones are geared toward those elderly people who are not technologically adept. Your friend has a smartphone and so does his wife. They are unlikely to need help on that front; although as your friend endures treatment, you might be mindful to ask if he needs help Facetiming or Whatsapping with home. Like literally, hold the phone for him.

For her, send a meal delivery certificate. 100% having someone to do a job for you when all the jobs are suddenly yours is the nicest thing.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:43 AM on September 15, 2019

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