Dilemma: what gift should I take to a friend in hospital?

Katharine Whitehorn / 11 February 2016

With many hospitals now not allowing flowers for health and safety reasons, agony aunt Katharine Whitehorn offers some alternative suggestions.

Dilemma: can't give flowers to friend in hospital

My friend and neighbour has been taken into hospital and is expected to be in there for several weeks.

I would like to visit and had planned on taking a beautiful bouquet of flowers, but have been told that the hospital doesn't allow fresh flowers. Apparently they believe they can spread germs and aggravate allergies.

The trouble is I'm not not sure what to take my friend as a gift, do you have any suggestions?

Katharine Whitehorn's advice

You don't say whether your friend is allowed to eat anything or whether she's on a diet, but hospital food can be pretty dull, so consider taking some of her favourite food in to her. If she is allowed it, a bit of smoked salmon – with lemon and brown bread already buttered, works well.

If you know what she reads, frivolous magazines can cheer up even those who read serious books when they're well.

But remember there's never much room by a hospital bed; I would take only a small box of chocolates on your first visit, and she what she's got and what's missing. I've known someone be almost moved to tears by a tiny bottle of eau de Cologne. 

While we're at it, remember that not everyone likes a visitor to stay and stay – if you're ill you tire very easily; and if there's a regular visiting time, try to be there at the beginning. It can be sad when visitors troop in and there's no one for you.

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