5 Things to Do When You Visit a Family at the Hospital

If you're planning on visiting a family going through medical adversity, whether they are home due to chronic illness or staying in the hospital, you've probably wondered, “what will I do while we visit?” I think one of the reasons I've hesitated to make these visits in the past is that feeling of just not knowing what to do. The reality is that your presence is enough to bring encouragement, so we thought we would put together a short list of easy things you can do while you visit someone. Our hope is that this will give you the courage to go visit someone this season and feel equipped with the tools to make a difference.  

1. Have a Conversation

Okay, this may seem obvious, but conversations aren't always easy. I remember times that we were waiting during procedures or at the emergency room late at night when variety in our conversation was a welcome change and helpful in passing the time. Whether you end up talking about hobbies or news unrelated to the family’s circumstance or hearing their latest medical updates, chatting with a familiar voice can bring comfort. 

I also find it helpful to have a few questions ready before I visit. If I don't, those awkward pauses tend to happen a little more frequently. I'm not the best conversationalist, but a little planning goes a long way. You may be interested in a recent post with nine questions to ask (and three to avoid when talking to a family facing medical adversity.

2. Bring a Game

I love games. From board games to card games, I enjoy the laughter, puzzles, and strategy that goes along with the fun. Games can also be great for any age from kids to parents, and the activity may just bring a needed smile if the family you’re visiting is down.

So what are some game ideas? It's hard to list some favorites with the many options, but here are a few suggestions:

Card Games

  • Monopoly Deal: This has become a staple for us. The game is fast (really!), has a little bit of strategy, and is good for as few as two people.

  • Phase 10: Another favorite, this is a great card game. It’s also nice because you don't have to play all 10 “phases” if you're short on time.

  • Standard Deck of Cards: The versatile staple, a standard deck of cards can be great for all ages. From a game of war, to a game of crazy eights, the options are almost endless. You can also practice math with younger kids with a deck of cards.

Board Games

  • Scrabble: Word games, and specifically Scrabble, remind me of my childhood. If it sounds like a mess to keep track of all of those tiles, there are some nice travel versions that are easy to use (we actually play on our travel set more than the full set).

  • Blokus: This is kind of like multi-player Tetris in board game form. Need I say more?

  • Ticket to Ride: If you have a little table space, this is a fun one, and you can talk about favorite places you've traveled while you play.


  • Bananagrams: This is basically a bunch of Scrabble tiles in a bag, but it’s a fast-paced, live-crossword challenge. This is also fun to play with kids to see how many words you can make or the silliest word you can imagine.

  • Farkle: This is a great dice game and a lesson in taking risks.

  • Puzzles: Okay, I know a puzzle isn't really a game, but our girls love putting together puzzles, big or small. Check the finished size dimensions on the box before you bring it with you, but many 100 piece puzzles are not only a perfect size for bringing with you, but also just long enough of a challenge for a visit!

(Note: If you're highly competitive, games might be an activity to avoid during your visit. :))

3. Bring an Activity

If you aren't a game person, you can also bring crafts or activities with you. Here are a few ideas:

  • Coloring Books: Who doesn't love to color? Plus coloring can be a great way to relieve stress. You may also want to bring some coloring books for the adults! Just make sure that you include colored pencils or crayons to go with the books.

  • Crafts: What do you have around the house that would make a fun craft? You could bring pipe cleaners to make different shapes or animals, scrap fabric and markers to make a cape, or even a kids building set to construct something cool.

  • Dolls or Matchbox Cars: Our girls love to play with their dolls and matchbox cars, and it’s fun to hear their imagination at work while we play.

4. Pray

Prayer is such a powerful tool in bringing hope. Pray for specific needs for the family you’re visiting, and pray in general for encouragement, strength, and courage.

There is a heavenly reality to our physical circumstances, and prayer is a great reminder that we are supported and loved.

I have a mentor that has been instrumental in speaking life into our family. One of the things that I love about him, and his entire family, is that they live by prayer. We have had them pray for us in their living room and over the phone, and everytime I walk away encouraged. One of the things I appreciate most about this mentor is that he will pray anywhere and anytime. He doesn’t say, “I'll be praying.” He says, “Let's pray now!” That is an example I’d love to follow.

5. Just Be There

There are times when we’ve finished conversations, played games, and done activities, and we just want someone to be close by. Don't be afraid to offer to just sit with someone. You can also read or pray silently, and just the fact that you are there will make all the difference in the world.

Medical challenges seem to have hit every family I talk to at some point or another. I hope this is helpful as you think about what you can do to help or offer encouragement to those around you.