Whether you or a loved one needs to stay in hospital this festive season, here are some ways to help make it a little more enjoyable

For most people, the holidays are all about spending quality time with loved ones, observing religious traditions and reflecting on everything that they have to be grateful for. But this may seem difficult if you or a loved one has to spend Christmas in the hospital.

For people who reside in long-term care facilities, or are staying at the hospital awaiting a procedure (or recovering from one), spending the holidays in the hospital can be a lonely time. Not only are they feeling left out of the festivities, they’re also away from familiar faces and comforts of home.

Similarly, at home, it can be really difficult for caregivers and their families to observe a holiday while someone important to them is spending it in the hospital due to health concerns.

Unfortunately, treatment won’t wait for the festivities to be over, so if you or a loved one with cancer needs to spend all or part of the holidays in the hospital, consider these tips for brightening the season:

Before you get your celebration ideas in full swing, take time to learn whether there are certain items or activities you should avoid depending on the patient’s treatment or the kind of ward they’re on. A quick phone call to the patient or hospital floor nurse can help you get the details in advance.

Now you know what’s allowed, here’s how you can bring the holiday festivities to the hospital:

Quality time:  For most people in hospital, a favourite for them and their families is to have those they cherish come for a visit. Spend time with your loved one when they are in the hospital. Your presence is the real present.

Thoughtful gift giving: While it may be tempting to purchase that cute purse they’ve had their eye on for a while, or their team’s latest football kit, remember to give gifts that someone in the hospital can use right away. A tablet, soundproof headphones or an e-book reader are ideal gifts for someone in the hospital. This way they can watch movies, read a book or listen to their favourite music whenever they feel like it. See our collection of gifts for cancer patients here.

christmas tree

Faux plants:  Christmas without a sparkly tree just doesn’t seem right, does it? If fresh plants and flowers are not allowed in the hospital, it doesn’t mean a Christmas tree or wreath is out of the question. Why not go for a mini faux tree with battery operated LED lights to brighten up the hospital room instead.

Candlelight: As they’re a fire hazard, open flame candles are not usually permitted in the hospital. However, there are some great electric varieties available. For those marking Hannukah or Kwanzaa, electric menorahs and Kinaras are a way to get around the ban.

spending christmas hospital

Virtual time: You can cherish your time with loved ones during the holidays no matter how far they are. If you can’t get together in person, use the phone. Or if you have one, use your smartphone, tablet, or laptop for a video chat.

Hanging around: Hang up Christmas cards, tinsel and family photos for a more homely feel.

Hospital hosts: Hospitals will make every effort to make Christmas as festive as they can from decorative wards, celebrity visitors and group activities. Find out what the hospital has planned during the festive period.

Festive friends: For younger cancer patients who can’t hed to Santa’s Grotto this year, arrange a Santa Claus visit to their bed. Sometimes children worry that Santa won’t know where they are to visit, so simple things like writing a small note at the end of their Christmas list to explain where they are will help reassure them.

(Pic credit: Edmonton Journal)


Movie marathon: Using a laptop, tablet or hospital DVD player, enjoy festive films like Elf, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Home Alone and oh so much more.

Mighty meals: Nothing brings thoughts of home to mind better than home cooking. Most wards have microwaves so ask a doctor or nurse if it’s okay to bring some home-cooked meals for the person you know who is spending the holidays in the hospital. Homemade treats like gingerbread biscuits and cakes are also fun and familiar.

celebrating Christmas hospital gingerbread

Music matters: Create a playlist of favourite Christmas tunes and play it the next time you visit. Just remember to keep the volume at a reasonable level so you don’t disturb other hospital patients or staff.

If you have any other suggestions for bringing holiday cheer to the hospital, we’d love to hear from you. Email your ideas and recommendations to Rykesha@livebetterwith.com and see if we add it to this post!