This gift list includes helpful ideas and practical tips to help all patients heal from all types of surgery. I’m recovering from my second orthopedic surgery in less than a year, and have learned the best gifts for patients. No matter what type of surgery your friend or family member underwent, you’ll find something to help with healing here.
I didn’t get a Neck and Chin Supporting Travel Pillow until three weeks post-surgery, and I wish the hospital had sent something like it home with me! This was probably the single most important gift I could ever have received after surgery. My shoulder surgery prevented me from lying down for almost a month – I had to sleep sitting up. It wasn’t just uncomfortable. It was painful, and it never occurred to me to get a neck and chin pillow. A pillow to help me sleep sitting up would’ve been an amazing gift after surgery. I have one now, and use it when my shoulder aches in pain at night (though that happens less and less often now). The great thing about this gift is that your patient can use it for future vacations and travel excursions. Talk about a practical, encouraging gift for healing and recovery after surgery!
When you’re searching for gift ideas, remember that surgery patients aren’t mobile. This means they need extra hands, arms and even legs, like an octopus. These gift ideas for people healing after an operation aren’t glamorous. They’re practical and helpful. They’re for patients who’ve been discharged after complicated and intense surgeries such as bone, back, and brain operations. If you’re looking for gift ideas for chemotherapy or breast cancer survivors, read 17 Gift Ideas for Women After Breast Cancer Surgery.
Thoughtful Gift Ideas for Patients Healing After Surgery
My first shoulder surgery was about ten months ago; I fell while jogging and ripped my arm bone from my shoulder socket. Oh, the pain! The surgeon installed a metal plate and eight screws to re-attach my bones.
A week ago, the same surgeon performed a second surgery to remove the metal plate and eight screws – and I’m thrilled and thankful to report that the pain is about 90% less than it was for the first operation. Still, I found myself writing How Jesus Might Pray for Healing After Surgery … because it is NO FUN recovering after a major operation.
Consider your patient’s personality, lifestyle, interests and overall health when you’re buying a gift to encourage healing and recovery. It can be tempting to ask people what they need and want after surgery – but the truth is they may not even know. I didn’t know I needed a neck pillow until I was given one as a gift! Surgery is scary and unpredictable; the patient’s energy and resources are focused on getting through it. Give your patient gifts that increase their energy and lift their spirits.
This list of gifts doesn’t include magazines, books, or funny movies to help patients heal. They’re fine gift ideas, but I didn’t want magazines, books, movies during either of my healing and recovery stints! I also didn’t want bouquets of flowers, chocolates, or gift baskets – though those can be good ideas for some patients who need those types of gifts for post-surgery healing and recovery. I myself needed more practical ideas to help me get through painful days and nights.
A tool for picking stuff up
The Nifty Nabber Pick-Up Tool with Aluminum Handle is a great gift idea! After surgery, patients can’t move very well. Turning and twisting is out of the question while healing. A simple grabber can help patients pick up items off the floor and at the end of the bed – or even open their mini fridge and grab a soda pop! When the patient can move around easier, the grabber will help them reach for things from an upper shelf or cupboard.
A grabber isn’t the most beautiful gift for patients, but it’s incredibly helpful for post-surgery healing. Wrapping a ribbon or bow around this gift will make it pretty as well as practical. You might even attach a bell to it, so your patient can ring for you when he or she needs a hand 🙂
Ice packs or heating pads
I’m still using my Reusable Hot and Cold Therapy Gel Wrap, night and day. It doesn’t matter what type of surgery your patient had; he or she probably has sore bits that need icing (to reduce swelling and bleeding, like me) or heating (depending on the type of surgery).
A good hot and cold therapy wrap doesn’t just soothe a patient’s soreness after surgery, it molds itself to the body part. My old ice pack kept slipping from my shoulder to my arm. I didn’t know that you could get icing and heating wraps that stay in place! A gel wrap is better than a bag of frozen peas (which my hospital’s post-surgery recovery plan suggested) because it can be used both hot and cold. This is another gift idea that goes beyond healing after surgery.
A new pillow for post-surgery rest, healing, and recovery
A Shredded Memory Foam Pillow with Bamboo Cover by Coop Home Goods – Made in the USA is a custom pillow that will meet post-surgery needs. It’s an even better gift than the neck pillow because it’ll mold to the patient’s head, neck and shoulders. This makes it effective for all sleep positions, which is crucial for post-operative healing.
A body pillow – the Memory Foam Full Size Body Pillow with Kool-Flow Breathable Air Flow – is better than just a head pillow for post-operative healing and recovery. Sleep is one of the most important things a patient needs after surgery — if not the most important thing! Both body and head pillows offer ventilation and promote proper alignment for deeper sleep through the night. Believe me, sleep is the most precious gift you can give a patient after surgery. Good sleep doesn’t just help patients recover, it also improves mood, energy, and spirits.
Avoid asking your patient questions such as “What do you need to help you heal and recover after surgery?” Be proactive; give a gift you think might be helpful. Don’t make your patient decide or choose a post-surgery gift. Even if he or she doesn’t like or can’t use your gift, your thoughtfulness will be an encouragement.
A Mini Fridge to make healthy food and drinks convenient
A Mini Fridge for ice, water, juice, snacks and fruit is an excellent, practical and thoughtful, practical post-operative present! This is also helpful for the “nurses” who are helping the patient recover because it alleviates the need to run up and down stairs or to the kitchen for nourishment. It can even contain medication, which needs to be kept cold in some cases.
A mini-fridge by the bed allows for a stockpile of ice packs, water, juice, snacks, and other essentials for the day. The one in the picture doesn’t have a freezer, but I’d love to have a freezer in the same room as me. My ice packs – which reduce swelling after surgery – melted fast. It’s a long trek to the freezer in the kitchen. Whether patients are healing from a spinal fusions, tonsilectomies or laparoscopies, they’ll appreciate having cold beverages and fruit in the same room.
Grocery, gas, or gift cards – a financial gift for patients who can’t work
An Amazon Gift Card is a good post surgery gift idea because patients can’t leave home to go shopping for groceries, toiletries, or other necessary items. This gift doesn’t focus on helping a patient heal from surgery as much as help ease the stress of being off work and not having an income.
People recovering from back surgery may not be able to go back to work for awhile, and may struggle financially. Not to mention the bills from the hospital, pharmacy, doctor’s office or other medical suppliers! A practical gift card – not one from Starbucks or iTunes – can help ease the financial pressure of healing from surgery.
White noise machine for good, deep healing sleep after surgery
The SNOOZ White Noise Sound Machine will block out the disruptive noises that irritate patients who are trying to get the sleep they need to heal. Remember how I said sleep is one of the most important gifts a post-surgery patient could ever receive? It’s because it’s true – and a sound machine helps people fall asleep naturally. It can also quieten the mind and body by giving patients something else to think about.
Healing and recovering after surgery is painful and difficult; something soothing and mind-numbing can make a big difference. A white noise machine is natural, non-invasive, and requires no headphones, wires or masks.
Post-surgery transportation – a practical gift for patients
A thoughtful gift for back surgery patients is your willingness to drive them to follow-up appointments, physiotherapy sessions, and even support groups. Instead of asking your patient to call when he needs a ride, send a text or email every morning. Ask what’s lined up for the day or week, and if you can drive him to a doctor or other appointment.
If you know your post-op patient isn’t sleeping well (getting a good night’s rest is crucial and difficult after surgery!), read How to Sleep After Breast Cancer Surgery.
Electronic reader or tablet
A Kindle Fire with Wi-Fi might is a gift that entertains and relaxes patients by providing books and magazines. It’s easy to hold and use, and offers people a wide range of options and activities for long afternoons…and even longer nights.
A wireless internet connection and something like an iPad is an essential gift for post surgery patients. They won’t be dancing jigs or running marathons while healing, and they will get bored. A light, easy to handle Samsung tablet or an Apple iPad with Wi-Fi is helpful for back surgery patients.
One surgeon said participating in supportive and informative forums can be a helpful way to stay connected with other patients recovering from surgery. That said, however, it’s important not to allow the internet to consume unhealthy amounts of time and energy.
Supportive pillows for after back surgery
After surgery, many patients need extra support for the back and neck. A BedLounge Ultimate Back Support Pillow is a gift that will help with day rest and night sleep, no matter what type of surgery the patient underwent. This gift will also be useful and appreciated after recovery! It’s a great pillow for watching movies and even lounging in the backyard on a warm summer day.
Talk to the surgeon before buying this post-surgery recovery gift, though – a memory foam wedge might be more effective. Each surgery is different, as is every patient, and you want to make sure you get a gift that helps with healing.
A water infuser for post-surgery hydration
Almost every patient has to take painkillers after surgery. A negative side effect of painkillers is constipation – and one of the best remedies is to drink lots and lots of water. But even if patients like the taste of water – and they want to drink it because it helps with healing and recovery after surgery – it gets boring after awhile.
One of my favorite gift ideas for after surgery is an Atlantis Water and Fruit Infusion Glass Pitcher. It’s perfect for infusing beverages with natural flavors. It’s a great way to enjoy a sweet drink without added sugar. It’s so easy to use; just choose your favorite fruits, and slice them into smaller pieces. The smaller the slices, the stronger the infusion. Put the fruit inside the infuser and add fresh water. Wait for at least an hour and voila! Delicious water with no calories.
Post-operative patients are often instructed to drink a lot of water after surgery, to flush out their system and get their kidneys and bowels moving again. Water isn’t as interesting as fruit-infused water to drink, which is why this gift is good for healing after surgery.
Satin sheets for easy sliding
Soft, comfortable Fitted Satin Bedsheets are a beautiful-yet-practical gift after surgery. They’re not only luxurious and comfortable, they’ll help patients slide in and out of bed quickly and easily. It’s hard to scooch around on cotton sheets when your arm, back or leg is hobbled – especially when you’re in pain.
This is one of the most thoughtful, practical, luxurious post-surgery gifts. If you decide to gift your patient with satin, make sure the sheets are fitted! If they don’t tuck in well, they’ll undone and leave the mattress exposed.
Comfort basket to support patients emotionally after surgery
A gift basket or box with comfort items the patient can easily reach is a great gift idea for patients after surgery. This is where the grabber at the beginning of this article comes in handy! Fill the basket with reading materials, tissues, lip balm, water bottle with straw, snacks, gum, puzzles, phone, phone numbers, small notebook, pen, puzzles, etc.
A relaxing, comforting post-surgery environment
A simple Comfort Peace Love Joy Fleece Blanket. Healing after surgery can get lonely and depressing. A warm blanket – especially one with the words “Peace Love Joy” – will remind your patient that he or she is not alone.
Remember how important the environment is when it comes to healing and recovery. What does your patient’s main space look like? Is she surrounded by images of beauty and healing, art and flowers, color and light? A creative post-surgery gift is to make sure she is surrounded by beautiful and healthy things when she’s recovering in bed.
Heating pads for post-surgery pain
Heating pads can alleviate lower back pain and discomfort after surgery – depending on the type and severity of the surgery. The BodyMed Digital Heating Pad includes “moist heat”, which is especially useful for pain relief associated with muscle strains and spasms, joint pain and inflammation.
If you give a heating pad as a gift to a post surgery patient, make sure he knows when to use heat versus ice. Ice packs can be really good for back pain relief, and so can heating pads.
A post surgery cane or walker
The HurryCane All-Terrain Cane; Freedom Edition is that it stands up by itself! If you give this gift, get a ribbon and wind it around the cane. Make it look fun – maybe you can create a candy cane effect. Or, consider getting an ornately carved wooden cane that is not only practical, but also beautiful. Something like this — a gift that encourages people to be free, mobile and interactive with the world — can be encouraging and uplifting for patients who are getting tired of waiting for healing to happen.
“It’s supposed to be a secret, but I’ll tell you anyway. We doctors do nothing. We only help and encourage the doctor within.” – Albert Schweitzer, MD.
In 20 Breast Cancer Surgery Recovery Gifts, I describe the importance of hope on healing and recovery after a major illness or health event. I don’t know how your back surgery patient is coping with discouragement and pain, but it’s always good to bring a message of joy, peace, and inspiration.
Hope, joy and faith – a Willow Tree figurine
The Willow Tree figurines are my favorite non-practical gifts for healing and recovery. They’re simple, classic, and pretty. I include one on almost every gift article I write – including Sympathy Gift Ideas for Someone Who Lost a Mom.
One last idea for patients healing after surgery: “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life,” said Pablo Picasso. A touch of beauty, color, and creativity can help patients recover from surgery. Can you incorporate something beautiful into your patient’s room? Plants, pretty scarves, colorful pictures are great gifts to help someone heal after surgery.
The gift of a gentle post-surgery massage
Aching bones, stiff joints, and sore muscles are the worst parts of recovering from surgery. One of the most practical, helpful gifts you can give someone you’re close to is a gentle massage. You don’t necessarily have to pay for a specialized post-surgery massage therapist, though it does depend on how you’re patient is doing. I would’ve loved my feet and hands massaged while I was healing from both surgeries. Any gift that helps ease stress, pressure and soreness after surgery is wonderful – including gifts that distract patients from the pain.
May your patient experience a full recovery from this surgery, and be able to get out of bed and walk around without any pain or discomfort! May God bless you with peace, hope, and encouragement. May your faith guide you and lead you, and give you comfort and joy. And, may you find the best gift for healing and recovery as your patient recovers from surgery. 🙂
If you have any ideas or gifts to help patients heal from surgery, please share below. I’d love to add to this list.