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10 ways to support a family with a sick kid in the hospital

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Child in hospital

When a friend or family member has a sick kid or teen in the hospital you know you want to help but aren’t sure exactly what to do. Try one of these 10 ideas for supporting families with a child in the hospital:

1. Give kid-friendly games.

If a child is sick enough to be confined to a bed but well enough to sit up and be bored, try dropping off games they can play without thinking too hard. Think card games like Uno or Go Fish, reusable sticker books or dot-to-dot books. Arts and crafts supplies including coloring books and Play-doh are a good idea too. Leave the Sudoku for another time.

2. Set up meal delivery for parents.

Food is a go-to gift for families in a pinch. Being able to feed the family without the hassle of grocery shopping, food prep, cooking and cleanup frees up precious mental space and energy. Use takethemameal.com to coordinate efforts with friends and family. Don’t forget to use disposable containers (grab these at the dollar store for cheap) for any meal you drop off so the family doesn’t have to worry about washing and returning your Tupperware.

3. Send them photos.

Make a special photo album filled with your favorite pictures of the child or teen for them to peruse when they feel lonely. You could also print photos to display in a room during long-term hospital stays. Include pictures of them, their friends and their favorite places and memories.

4. Make a playlist.

Boost spirits with a custom playlist made just for the sick child. Pick your favorite songs or music that has special meaning for both of you. Load the list onto an inexpensive MP3 player you can leave with the child.

5. Offer babysitting for other kids.

Volunteer to babysit any other kids at home so parents can stay at the hospital with a sick child as much as possible. This doesn’t have to be a full-time gig; even watching kids for a few hours so mom can take a nap after a night in the hospital is helpful.

6. Do the laundry.

Often laundry is the last item on a priority list when living in limbo between the house and hospital. Bringing clean clothes to the hospital or doing the laundry for friends with a sick child can be a huge help. Set up a laundry service like ItsWashed.com if you want to help but don’t have time to do the dirty work yourself.

7. Clean their house (or hire a cleaner for them).

A clean house will help keep everyone in the house happy and healthy. Get a group of friends together to do a regular cleaning together or split the cost of a house-cleaning service. Other household tasks you can help with: mowing the lawn, watering plants, walking the dog.

8. Put together a care package.

It’s hard to go wrong with a care package for either the child or the parents. A few ideas for adults include non-perishable snacks, reusable water bottle or mug, soft blanket, throat lozenges, hand sanitizer and soap, hand lotion and a paperback novel or magazine.

9. Give cash.

It never hurts to give cold hard cash to anyone facing mounting medical bills. Even if a family has great insurance, there are additional costs that quickly add up when a family member is in the hospital: gas, parking, overpriced cafeteria food, medical co-payments. Even a roll of quarters for the vending machines is a thoughtful gift. You could also give gift cards to gas stations, restaurants and stores near the hospital.

10. Offer to be the family spokesperson.

Let the parents know you are willing to be the unofficial family spokesman that others can contact with their questions. You can pass details and updates onto family members and friends so that the parents aren’t bogged down by well-meaning inquiries.

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