I have been to the hospital too many times to count. Today as I was contemplating a gift to give a friend in the hospital I reflected on my past experiences. There are a lot of factors involved in giving the perfect gift. We will explore these factors in this post and give gift suggestions so let’s begin. 


Before you can get the perfect gift you must determine the reason behind the visit. You wouldn’t want to send a congratulatory cake to someone just diagnosed with cancer. This may seem obvious but it that is only because the example is so extreme. Let me offer another one and see if you can get this one correct. Your friend has always been a crafter so when you find that she has to go in for eye surgery you decide to get her a cross stitch kit.  This may seem like a good gift however cross stitching is a very visual activity. Perhaps a more appropriate gift would be an audio book or music. Next, who you will be giving the gift to is just as important as what the gift is. 

Emotional vs nonemotional investments:

The Circle of Intimate Relations

Emotional Investments


The circle of intimacy – These are the people you can’t imagine your life without. They know your private self quite well, you spend a lot of time interacting with them – you usually live with them and you trust them the most.

The circle of friendship – These are the people who are close to you, but there is less intimacy involved. They don’t physically live with you, share a bathroom with you or support you financially. But you do share your dreams, good news and troubles with them.

Gift Guidelines

Gifts given to your intimate and close friends should have time and effort put into them. While it can be appropriate to get a gift card I generally reserve chocolates and flowers for this category. You can give flowers and chocolates to those that fall into the nonemotional category. However, they can be a bit pricey depending on how extravagant you go. Depending on the length of stay the person will have you could make something like a blanket or if you more talented a stuffed animal. You can also bring balloons below I will discuss gift ideas further.

Nonemotional Investments

The circle of participation – Most coworkers, local community, acquaintances and other people that you interact with on a frequent basis (but are not your friends) fall into this category. All the friends you start neglecting can be quickly outcast into this circle.

The circle of exchange – The last circle contains people with whom you do transactions. They can be your doctors, a hairdresser, home cleaner, maybe even a customer, and so on.

Gift Guidelines

These gifts are very impersonal because you don’t have the relationship necessary to to give intimate gifts. For these relations a few gift ideas would be: gift card, edible arrangement, fruit or veggie tray, coffee mug, board game, chocolates, flowers, or balloons. You don’t want to put a lot of effort into these gifts because you rarely connect with these people.

Traditional or Unique?

Traditional gifts are the classics like flowers, chocolates, gift cards, etc. These gifts are great for coworkers,  acquaintances, and people whom you have no emotional investment in. However, there is nothing wrong with giving them to those you love especially if you customize the gift to them. If you are getting a loved one flowers find out what their favorite kind is. Chocolates can be hand picked or picked in bulk by type ie: truffles, nuts, creams, and so on. Balloons are another classic hospital gift. If you get balloons make sure they are mylar balloons most hospitals ban latex balloons due to patients having latex allergies.

Unique gifts are what I classify as out of the ordinary. They can be incredibly personal like a comfortable set of PJ’s or impersonal like some essential oils. Personally, I prefer unique gifts for loved ones because it shows extra thought and care. Unique gifts are tailored and customized to the individual in need. You don’t have to spend a lot of time making a gift by hand (kuddos to you if you do). Just try to put more thought into what the person’s situation is. When I was in the hospital for almost 3 months I was so sick of hospital food. The perfect gift for me at the time was an order of food from Mcdonalds. So now that we’ve gone over the different scenarios let’s get to list making.

  1. Flowers
  2. Chocolates
  3. Card, hand written or gift card
  4. Stuffed animals
  5. Edible arrangements
  6. Home cooked or fast food
  7. Playing cards
  8. Board game
  9. Small puzzle
  10. Movie
  11. Blanket or pillow, new or their favorite from home
  12. Picture book of family and friends
  13. Get permission to bring in their pet for a visit
  14. Activity book like crosswords, sudoku, coloring, etc…
  15. Mylar balloons
  16. White noise sound machine
  17. Headphones
  18. No slip socks/slippers
  19. Bathrobe 
  20. Comfortable clothes/ pj’s

Remember to be aware of the reason your loved one is in the hospital and their current mental health. A 1000 puzzle would be a horrible gift for a person with dementia as it would only frustrate them. They actually make puzzles specifically for people with dementia that would be a great alternative. I hope this article has given you something to think about when giving a gift to someone in the hospital or in home care it’s the same.