The idea of visiting someone who is ill might not sound welcoming, but think about what your visit can mean to that person, and you will definitely go for it.
In this article, we are going to give you some practical advice on visiting the sick, including some general points to note
, what to say
during a visit and the best and worst gifts for patients
General points to note
Before visiting a patient, make a call first.
Make sure he or she is up for a visit. If the patient is not fit for a visit, you can still send the patient cards, interesting pictures or articles. These can be the highlight of his or her day. If you are not well yourself, it would be best to call and reschedule your visit as you may find it hard to face a patient when you are not feeling well yourself.
When you arrive at the hospital or the patient’s home, wash your hands first.
This can reduce the risk of spreading germs. Greet the patient by asking ‘How are you?’ sympathetically. Listen carefully to the patient’s reply and decide whether you should ask about his or her health conditions. Remember to be a good listener.
Keep your discussion with the patient light and upbeat.
Instead of those ‘sicker than you’ stories, have some interesting anecdotes ready for sharing. Believe in the healing power of homour and try to cheer the patient up. Have a normal conversation with the patient and avoid arguing with him or her.
Keep your visit short so as not to tire the patient out.
Before you go, try to schedule your next visit with the patient. This can give him or her something to look forward to. Avoid saying ‘Call if you need anything’ as you are placing a burden on the patient. Offer something specific instead.
Apart from giving attention to the patient, you may also show your appreciation to the caregiver(s)
. Caring for others is a difficult and draining task. A few kind words can mean a lot.
It is always a good idea to extend your care to other people in the community
. If you know that someone in your community is sick and needs help, try to volunteer to visit the person, or help that person with some necessary task or errand. This can help take some pressure off the person in need.
What to say
When you try to cheer a patient up, the first thing that comes up in your mind (and many other people’s) would probably be ‘Everything is going to be OK.’ Please do NOT say that as it is considered false reassurance. If you want to show support and care
for the patient, you may consider saying the following:
I’m sorry you’re going through this.
You’re important to me and I love you.
I couldn’t imagine how frustrating this is for you.
I hate seeing you suffer.
I don’t know what to say but I care about you.
I want to support you in any way that I can.
Some people may try to offer help to patients by asking ‘Have you gotten other opinions? or ‘Have you tried this alternative therapy?’ This is NOT a good idea as such questions discount the work done by patients and caregivers. If you really want to share information about alternative therapy, you may consider giving your information to the patient’s family instead.
Best and worst gifts for patients
Giving a gift to a patient may cheer him or her up, but you must be careful when choosing your gifts. For example, you should not give a pot plant to a sick Japanese friend because the word ‘roots’ in Japanese has a negative connotation and it will remind the patient of the status of not being able to get up from bed. In Chinese culture, there are many taboos to observe. For example, you should not give white flowers to a Chinese patient because these flowers are used mainly in funerals.
Food and drink may be a more desirable option, but you should first find out if they are allowed in the hospital. Also, people who are receiving cancer treatment may not be allowed to eat or drink occasionally. If you choose to give fruit as a gift, please also check in advance to see if the patient is permitted to eat fruit. Avoid buying pears or bananas as the names of the fruit are inauspicious in Chinese.
Often, gifts of entertainment
and gifts of cheer
are more welcome. As said in the earlier section in this section, a get well soon card and some light-hearted gossips could help a patient feel better.
If a patient has been sick for some time, the best gift would be a gift of service
. Here are some ideas:
Help the patient with household chores, like doing shopping at the supermarket.
If the patient keeps a dog, help him or her walk the dog when you can.
Accompanying the patient to and from medical appointments if the patient’s family members are not available.
Do you have other ideas to share? Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
so that we can enrich our list and benefit more people!