9 Things to Do When a Friend’s Child Is in the Hospital

When a friend’s child is staying in the hospital, your instinct is to help in any way you can—but you may not know where to start. Here, a mom whose daughter was in the hospital for six months due to complications from congenital heart disease, breaks down nine simple things you can do for someone in her situation.

1. Send healthy food.

Many well-wishers come with treats, but your friend more likely wants a salad for lunch or an easy-to-microwave dinner. Ignore this tip if your friend mentions craving junk food. If you’d like to bring food for your friend’s child, ask if that’s permitted.

2. Give a gift card.

Restaurant gift cards help with the food bill, iTunes or Amazon let your friend load up on entertainment, and a good old Visa gift card can go toward bills and incidentals.

3. Stop by with a cell-phone charger.

Odds are, she could use a spare. Other practical gifts: deodorant, extension cords, cleansing wipes, and breath mints. Disposable plates and cups are handy too.

4. Visit on a weekday.

Visitors pile up on weekends, which can be stressful to manage. If you can spare two hours, come midweek instead. Call first, though.

5. Remember the diagnosis.

If it’s obscure, take the time to read up on it a bit on your own.

6. Volunteer to pet-sit, water plants, and collect mail.

Ask who’s coordinating such things and call directly to offer.

7. Clean her house.

Hire a service if you don’t live locally.

8. Stay away if you’re sick.

Or if anyone in your home is sick. Or if you haven’t gotten a flu shot.

9. Say: “However long this takes, I’m here with you.”

Remember: Time is standing still for your friend, and recovery can be maddeningly slow.

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