SUNDAY, Dec. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Being hospitalized during the holidays can be emotionally difficult, but there are ways to help patients keep their spirits up, experts say.

"While the psychological impact may be short-lived, the bottom line is people would rather be well and home than sick and away," Joshua Klapow, a clinical psychologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), explained in a university news release.

"The holidays are about social interactions, the sharing of emotions and connecting as humans, and there is nothing written that says this cannot occur in a hospital setting. Bring the holidays to the hospital," Klapow said.

Many hospitals take steps to boost the spirits of their patients over the holidays, such as providing music therapy and collecting toys for children. There are also a number of things that friends and family members can do to help their loved ones deal with their situation, added Jordan DeMoss, assistant vice president of the UAB Hospital.

The best thing people can do is to spend time with someone while they are in the hospital, DeMoss suggested. Visitors should let patients know they are happy to be there, he added.

"Convey to them that you are celebrating that they are here with you. Focus on the meaning of the holiday, and not so much the environment," De Moss said.

If being there in person is not possible, take advantage of hospital Wi-Fi and try to connect with someone in the hospital online or through Skype, he suggested.

DeMoss recommended several other ways to celebrate the holidays with those who are hospitalized, including:

  • Brighten up the patient's room with holiday decorations.
  • Bring a favorite holiday food the patient is allowed to eat, or make a special request in the hospital cafeteria.
  • Schedule a doctor-approved massage for the patient by a licensed therapist who makes "house calls."
  • Ask about music therapy or bring a music player to fill the room with holiday tunes.
  • Bring familiar activities from home into the hospital to pass the time, such as knitting or games.

Even strangers can lift the spirits of people who are hospitalized over the holidays, added Terri Middlebrooks, nurse manager in the Acute Care for Elders unit at UAB Highlands Hospital.

"Last year I told my daughter about a patient on our floor who had no family or friends to visit him. She brought a Christmas tree to his room," Middlebrooks said in the news release. "Soon enough, the whole staff was participating and bringing him presents and other goodies."

More information

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has more on how to beat the holiday blues.