My Guide to Helping Families with a Child in the Hospital

Before I continue our story I want to share more on how you can help. In the last few years between NICU, RSV/Adenovirus/Pneumonia stay, and this most recent round of hospital time, it has occurred to me most people don’t know how to help.

Most people ask “Let me know if I can do anything”, or “how can I help?”, but when you’re a frazzled parent with a kid in the hospital the answer to these is pretty much always “I don’t know”.

So how can you help and be more specific? (the local list)

1- Provide food!! There are lots of ways to do this. But remember hospital food sucks and is expensive. Ways to provide food vary widely: provide home cooked food, provide gift cards to places near hospital (bonus if they deliver), provide gift card for the REAL coffee place inside the hospital (at Children’s in CO this is Dazbog), pick up groceries, share those extra breakfast burritos you weren’t going to finish (seriously a neighbor did this for us and it provided 4 meals for Dad who was going back and forth). Food needs are just as important if not more so upon return home. We may have a full fridge but everything it has spoiled! My neighbors were awesome and set up a meal train (literally there’s a website called mealtrain.com that sets up the calendar and lets people sign up to bring you food). I had never really heard of this before and it has saved us big time with all our follow ups. Yea we had time to make it to the grocery store but not to actually cook.

A very lovely fresh meal! I feel so blessed after so many people have brought us home coked meals. This last one was from someone I had only met once and didn’t even realize was a neighbor!

2-Watch/care for pets. It’s always hard with a kid in the hospital to make sure your pets are fed and let out. Even if it’s the bare minimum – food, water, toilet – this is a huge help.

3-If the family has other kids, take them somewhere fun that’s not the hospital. Be it a sleepover with your kids, a movie, a park, anything – get them out and playing and show them they are still loved. My son may not have siblings but I do and I watched my cousin’s siblings go through some rough times while she was in the hospital. Getting siblings some fun time makes a world of difference.

4-Clean! One of the oddest things that never crosses my mind until I’m in the midst of it is how much we need a clean home when when get to be home! The piles of laundry, the musty smelling sheets, the filthy floor, the pile of dishes that are weeks old, etc. One neighbor came by while I got wee man down for nap and swept and vacuumed the whole house and finished up dishes I had started. Another neighbor sent over their 2 oldest kids after school and it was awesome. They mopped, cleaned toilets, helped fold laundry, cleaned a nose-print covered window, put away the now clean dishes, demolished my need to shred pile in the shredder, played with the wee man while I did a few chores they couldn’t, wiped down all our door knobs and light switches with disinfectant wipes, and all the while claimed it was more fun than the chores their mom gives them (seriously they are welcome back anytime!).

5- Visit us in the hospital – but bring goodies! What I really mean is we would love to see an adult that isn’t medical personnel, but we would also love a clean set of clothes, a treat for us parents, some socks, maybe a hairbrush and toothbrush. When we were in the hospital during the pneumonia stay our friends brought us one of those cube boxes full. It had a giant stuffed sloth for wee man, some magazines appropriate for both adults and wee man (Nat Geo, a cooking one, and some other adventure one), sweatpants that were big enough to fit either mom or dad, food snacks like apples and clementines, a few books for wee man (favorite is still Never Feed a Yeti Spaghetti), and the best part was the avoCATo fuzzy slippers with grippers on the bottom (still my favorite and I still take them to the hospital). The box itself was also fun and covered in sequence that you can brush with your hand to change how it looks. Super entertaining.

Sloth as big as wee man! Thanks friend! (PS – check out her blogs at PicklesAndUnicorns and LightningPickles)

So you’re not local, but want to help? What are other options?

DONATE! There are so many ways to donate that mean a lot to us families with kids in the hospital, even if it never reaches us directly. There is always the option to donate money directly but that’s not the only option.

You can donate food and supplies to programs like There With Care that provide families with food and supplies for their kid. So when we were in the NICU they provided not only weekly bags of food, but a “baby shower in a bag”(bag of items from clothes to toys to blankets and soap etc that one would typically get at their baby shower), a pack of diapers, a NEW car seat, and a NEW pack’n’play!

Children’s Hospitals are always in need of new coloring supplies and non-plush toys. These fill activity rooms and provide entertain for thousands of kids. Some even are gifted to the kids struggling so they have something new and special that is theirs.

Donate time! AKA – volunteer. I don’t think there is ever a shortage of volunteers – either at the hospitals or programs that help with transitions home.

Blood and Plasma! Yes this is life saving! Right now I know our Colorado Children’s Hospitals are in CRITICAL NEED. They need ALL blood types and plasma. 1 blood donation has the potential to help up to 5 children.

And of course FOOD! You don’t need to be local to help with food. Gift cards these days can be sent electronically and a lot of places that deliver can take orders online – so yes someone in Florida can have food delivered to a family in Colorado.

I’m sure there are other ways you can help a family with a child in the hospital. My biggest thing, is don’t ask a vague “how can I help” question. Instead be specific, and volunteer what you can do.

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