Gift ideas for a sick friend

Melanie Whitehouse / 17 January 2017

With flowers not always being suitable or appropriate when friends or family are ill, here are some suggestions that will spread a little happiness.



When Anikka Burton was being treated for breast cancer in 2011, aged just 33, she was inundated with bunches of flowers from those who cared about her. With all her jugs, vases and big glasses overflowing with blooms, it got her thinking about what people could buy instead, particularly as flowers, food, drink and even some toiletries are a no-no for certain patients.

Inspired by the idea, she set up the online shop Not Another Bunch of Flowers, which also donates a proportion of profits to charity.

‘The gifts I’ve chosen are really lovely – so while they’re ideal for someone going through the kind of treatment I had to endure (and some are specifically for those going through chemo), almost all of them are just as special for people in different circumstances,’ she says. ‘It could be a gift for someone who’s about to have an operation or recovering from one, someone who’s having a tough pregnancy, a new mum, or a friend who’s had a rough ride. We all need a pick-me-up sometimes!’

Read Katharine Whitehorn's advice on taking a gift to a friend in hospital

Get well gifts

For people in hospital

You’re thinking practical here. Hospitals are nearly always hot, so a pure cotton nightdress or pyjamas and non-slip, mule-type slippers are always useful, particularly if someone has been taken in at the last minute or after an accident, with no time to pack an overnight bag.

Hospitals are also noisy and distracting, so a pretty eye mask, earplugs and a lavender pillow spray would be a welcome present.

A stand for their iPad or tablet, a puzzle or colouring book and crayons, and a weighted lap tray, so food can be pulled up within the patient’s reach, are also good ideas.

For people with cancer

Those on chemotherapy often lose their sense of taste or find it is altered by the drugs they’re on. Chemo also erodes the stomach lining, so anything acid – like wine – should be avoided. Anikka was told to avoid dairy products when she was ill, and others have to avoid toiletries that contain chemicals or other products that might interfere with treatment.

Chemotherapy drugs can cause hot flushes, so a gift such as Not Another Bunch of Flowers’ Chemo Relief Package, £49,50, containing a cool Chillow pillow, a refreshing spritz made from natural, safe, organic ingredients and a pack of Queasy Drops for upset tummies is ideal (these are all available separately, too).

Inspirational, motivational, positive books such as Tea & Chemo by Jackie Buxton, or something that takes the reader totally out of themselves, like a gripping psychological thriller, are a good solution. The Royal Marsden’s Cancer Cookbook contains more than 150 recipes for during and after treatment - perfect for tickling jaded palates when the patient returns home.

Buy soft, stretchy cotton berets, beanies and headscarves for chilly heads; and lip balm, hand cream and moisturisers from ‘natural’ companies like Burt’s Bees.

Invoke the healing power of chocolate but invest in a dairy-free variety from a company like Moo Free or Booja Booja.

Visit our cancer section for information on symptoms and treatments

For new mums

Obviously, granny and grandpa are going to spoil a new baby, but mum needs a bit of TLC, too.

Belgian chocolates, smelly candles (made of beeswax or soya wax, not paraffin wax, which produces soot), and soothing, spoiling body products are always appreciated. You might not have thought of an e-reader stand, though - perfect for supporting an iPad whilst breastfeeding.

Visit our grandparenting section for grandparenting tips and advice

For convalescents

A fold-up, lightweight walking stick is a useful aid to those recovering from a lower body operation or injury.

Keep the brain active with a jigsaw puzzle or puzzle book – and keep the patient warm with soft cashmere or merino wool socks, and a snuggly new throw for the sofa.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.