WISDOM
What to do when visiting someone in the hospital
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09/06/2015

Following are suggestions to guide you in visiting those who are ill. Since circumstances vary, some of the suggestions may not apply in a given situation.  These tips may also apply to visiting someone in a nursing home.

  1. Consider bringing a small gift.  A small surprise seems to make the start of the visit easier. The gift usually will fill in a sometimes awkward moment.
  2. Before visiting, wash your hands. Many hospitals provide hand sanitizers, please use them. Do not visit if you are ill or even if you might be ill.
  3. Remember that a person’s hospital room is her or his temporary home. Remember that you are a guest.  Knock before entering and ask if it is a convenient time to visit.  Do not change anything in the room unless the person asks you to. Do not throw open the curtains, throw out dry flowers, or open windows without asking permission from the “home” owner.  You might ask, “Is there anything you would like me to do for you while I am here?”
  4. Sit where it is easy to be seen (but not on the bed).
  5. Be natural. You may not feel “natural” in this unusual circumstance, but try to be yourself. The best thing you can offer is your friendship. Make any necessary adjustments for the person’s condition, but treat him or her the way you would if he or she were not sick.
  6. Do not come with a planned agenda. Permit the person to talk. Respect the person’s dignity and give him an opportunity to talk about the things he or she wants to talk about.  If the person is in a lot of pain or heavily sedated conversation will be difficult, and your visit should be SHORT.  However, if the person seems to want to talk, following are some questions you might use to initiate a conversation:   “I know that you are hurting, and I really care about that.  If you want to talk about it, I’ll listen.”   I can’t even imagine how much you must hurt or how lonely you must feel or anxious you must be.” “Tell me about. . .the surgery, how you are feeling, what the recovery will be like?”
  7. Be pleasant and cheerful, but do not overdo it.  You are not there as an entertainer.
  8. Avoid talking about illnesses or operations that you or your friends have had.
  9. Don’t diagnose.
  10. Ask permission before you read to the person. Sometimes he or she might enjoy listening; other times the person might prefer to visit or just rest quietly with you close by.
  11. Ask permission before you pray.
  12. Don’t neglect the use of touch. When appropriately used, it is soothing, comforting and emotionally healing to the ill person. When you touch, use common sense. Watch for any sign that it may be displeasing to the other person. A gentle holding of the hand or arm is usually appropriate and can be very comfortable for both persons.
  13. Do not come with a little sermon that you intend to deliver. Avoid being “preachy.”
  14. Never assume that a person in a coma cannot hear you – she may hear and understand every word, though she is unable to let you know that she is hearing. Speak your words of love and encouragement directly to the person, whether you are sure she understands or not.
  15. Don’t whisper with others outside the door.
  16. Don’t have a gab fest with other visitors, unless the patient wants that.
  17. Remember that the visit is TO and FOR the patient.  Keep the patient the center of your attention.

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