5 Great Gift Ideas for Patients and Families

By Bridget McCrea

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Keisha Echols gets a tear in her eye when she thinks back to the period of time when her husband was in the hospital for colorectal cancer surgery. After a long day at the hospital, she remembers driving back home with her young children in tow—all three of them tired, worn out and hungry. Their spirits were lifted and their bellies were filled when co-workers met them at home with a hot meal prepared in advance. “They would literally meet me in the driveway with the hot food,” says Keisha, of the repeated gifts of meals that her friends provided. “It was the most wonderful present and a huge blessing that I’ll never forget.”

If your friend, co-worker or loved one is currently managing cancer, you may be wondering about a suitable gift to convey your best wishes. Here are a few options to explore:

1)    Donation to a cancer-related non-profit. Resources like can help you find charitable organizations related to specific cancer types or related causes. Consider making a donation in your recipient’s name to an organization of their choice or to one that is making a difference in research or support services for patients diagnosed with the same type of cancer. Then, either print out a gift card or request one directly from the organization and present it to your friend or loved one.

2)    Humorous books, DVDs, or audio recordings. They say laughter is the best medicine, so consider a gift of a DVD, book or audio recording that brings a little laughter into a patient’s life. Select one or more that you know your recipient already loves, or go with your gut and choose one that he or she has never seen before. Another option is to purchase an iPod or similar device and download a selection of audio recordings for the patient to take with them to treatment (these could include comedy, music or audio books).

3)    Theme-based gift baskets. Come up with an interesting theme and create (or, have someone else create) a gift basket around it. Consider the recipient’s hobbies, likes and “to do” lists. Someone who has always talked about scrap-booking might love a basket that includes a camera, a starter scrapbook and instructions on how to get it done; for a friend who loves to pamper herself, consider a spa theme and include lotions, a lavender pillow and soothing music. Really any thoughtful collection of small gifts will be sure to raise your loved one’s spirits and show how much you care.

4)    Blankets, throws and pajamas. Comfortable and cozy coverings can help patients and their families relax—even when they’re camped out in a doctor’s waiting room or a hospital.

5)    Gift cards for restaurants, movies or groceries. Costs related to cancer treatment can be overwhelming, and many patients appreciate the opportunity to splurge on a movie or a night out when money is tight. Offering a gift certificate to a favorite restaurant, a couple of movie tickets or for groceries can be a welcomed gift.