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Special Needs Life

5 Great Ways to Support a Family Whose Child is in the Hospital 

It can be hard to know how to support a family in as difficult a situation as their child being admitted to the hospital. Whether they have a medically complex child who is admitted to the hospital often or if their child has a sudden illness or accident, it can be a form of torture having to watch them struggle or undergo painful procedures and surgeries. No family should have to go through it alone.

As someone who’s been on the receiving end of this kind of support, I can tell you it can be equally difficult to know how to voice our needs. 

Sometimes we don’t even know what kind of support we need, we just know we need it. And other times there’s SO MUCH that we need help with, but it’s hard for us to ask.

So that’s why I wanted to share this list of 5 ways to support a family whose child is in the hospital. In case you know a family in need that you want to help, but you’re not sure how.

Let me just say, the amount of support our family has received from the moment we announced our son’s diagnosis has been incredible. You can read about the day it all started here. It’s been more support than we ever imagined and the greatest comfort having an army of people behind us as we’ve walked down this road with him. 

Every hospital admission we’ve had friends, family, acquaintances, and even strangers reach out to show us support. And I’m going to share all the really helpful things people have done for our family and families like ours. 

1. Financial Support:

Chances are they won’t tell you and that’s why I am. Having a child in the hospital is expensive. Hospital bills ASIDE, there are a million other little things that, all together, really add up fast. 

Meals, snacks/drinks, travel, hotel rooms, childcare for siblings, missed work…

Though it feels like it when you’re within those hospital walls, real life doesn’t stop. Bills are still due, siblings need their normal, and eating out for every meal really puts a squeeze on your budget. 

It gets even tougher if their children’s hospital isn’t local and travel is required. That means no going home for meals, naps, or overnight rest. And lots of gas or even airfare going to and from. 

Starting or giving to a GoFundMe, organizing a fundraiser, or simply sending them a little gift to their Venmo/PayPal/etc. are great ways to help cover a meal, coffee, childcare, and other expenses. 

Every single little bit takes a load of stress off and helps them focus their attention on their child. 

2. DoorDash/Grubhub/Meal Drop-off

This was one of the most helpful things people did to support us. It was one thing off our minds each day to have our lunch and/or dinner taken care of.

You can text them a few restaurant ideas and ask which one they’d like. Then put in their order and have it delivered right to them! This way they don’t have to go down to the cafeteria or leave the hospital to go get themselves something to eat.

Or if you’re local to their hospital, dropping off a homemade meal is such a nice treat. Eating out can get old and even hard on the stomach sometimes if you have to do it long enough….so having something homemade is a welcome change.  

3. Mail/Gifts/Snack baskets:

Happy mail always brightens the day and it always brought a smile to our son’s face. 

Letters or colored pictures from friends and family, mylar balloons (latex usually is not allowed) stuffed animals, zip-down/button-down pajamas, new toys or activities that their child can do in his/her hospital bed…those can all help lift their child’s spirits. 

Some hospital gift shops allow friends and loved ones to place an order over the phone for balloons, toys, candy, etc. and a parent/guardian can go down and pick it up! This is perfect if their hospital is not local to you and you also know it’s sure to get to the right room!

Another helpful item is a basket of snack foods and drinks that they all can enjoy. Pick things that don’t have to be refrigerated just in case they don’t have access to a fridge. Most hospitals provide ice machines and cups on the unit somewhere so they can still their drinks cold. Also, be sure to ask them of any food or diet restrictions their child may have while inpatient. 

If they’ve been there a while or they know they’ll be there a good while longer, items like laundry detergent and other toiletries can save them a trip to the store.

4. Childcare/Pet Care/Lawn care

If you’re a trusted friend or family member, volunteering to care for their other children can be a big help. Whether it’s watching them in their home or helping transport siblings to and from school, daycare, etc.

Similarly, if they have pets, it could be helpful to offer to stop by and feed/water them, take them for a walk, let them outside, etc. 

Also lawn care! This one isn’t thought of often. If they have a lawn and it’s been a long admission, chances are it may need some attention. Grass grows fast in spring and summer months, so if you’re able and willing, volunteering to cut their grass a time or two can be a huge help. Then they’re not left with a jungle to cut down when they finally get home. 

5. Thoughtful, Encouraging Messages

Don’t underestimate the power of a kind and thoughtful text! It can be so encouraging knowing that people are supporting your family and praying for your child.  

Try not to ask too many questions and let them know that they’re not obligated to respond! Feeling pressure to respond to lots of messages and answer a lot of questions can sometimes be overwhelming. So take that pressure off for them! But seeing a full inbox of people checking in on your family and knowing people are thinking of your child as they go through a tough time can be all the support a parent needs sometimes.

I hope this list has helped you think of a ways to support a family whose child is in the hospital. And if none of these are in your budget, remember that just sending them a quick message to check in and let them know you’re thinking and praying for them can be more support than you realize!

If you’re a family who’s spent time in the hospital with your child and you have another idea to add to this list, let us know in the comments!

Kalie Thomas

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