What do you do when you visit a sick friend?
When your friend or loved one is sick or injured, either at the hospital or at home, visiting is important. But it can be awkward and uncomfortable.
Rest and recuperation can be depressing. Once you’ve marathon watched a few series and caught up on the latest celebrity gossip, what is there to do. The world goes on without you, and you can start to feel like you don’t matter any more.
So taking a little time out of your day to let them know they matter can be a big deal.
Visit A Friend In Hospital
When you visit your friend in the hospital, it can be daunting. Most people are intimidated and uncomfortable in the hospital. Even worse, now you are facing a person at their weakest and most vulnerable. This leaves most people tongue-tied and awkward. The best thing you can do is focus on your friend’s needs and do your best for them.
- First rule is to listen, if they say they don’t want visitors, then don’t visit, unless you know for sure they are lying, some people don’t want visitors to see them like that. But don’t assume, ask; others get lonely and start to feel neglected if no one comes. So the first thing you need to do is ask them if you should come.
- Next, schedule your visit appropriately. Because hospitals run tests at all hours of the day you may arrive and find your friend is busy.
- Visitors are best enjoyed one or two at a time; if you can arrange a convenient time for yourself and your friend, your visit will go better. Don’t overwhelm them by showing up as a crowd. Their roommates won’t appreciate it either.
- Be respectful of their roommates. The most fragile relationship in the world is the one where you are both stuck in a room together all day,with no opportunity for escape. Your behaviour will reflect on and potentially impact your friend, so talk quietly, respect their privacy and don’t mess with their stuff.
- Consider bringing something they need; talk to them before you go, find out what they are missing. If they say they don’t need anything you can always ask them more specifically, such as can you bring their favorite magazine. That said, be willing to go empty handed; if they say they don’t want anything, they may mean it. Storage is tight, so they may not want extraneous items floating around.
- Get them something when you get there. Refill their water, dump out their waste-can; grab an ice pack from the nurses station.
- Offer to run errands. Sometimes running to the gift shop for a pack of gum, the vending machine for a juice or the cafeteria for a turkey sandwich is the nicest thing you can do for someone, especially if they just picked at their mystery meat of the day.
- Don’t mess with their stuff unless you are asked. If they need some help tidying up their stuff so they can reach it, great. That can be a great way to help. Otherwise, be careful, if you move it, put it back. There’s nothing worse than not being able to reach your water, or your phone after everyone leaves.
- Offer to take them for a walk. If they are mobile, either walking or wheelchair, you can offer to take them for a walk. You can take them to the cafeteria, or to the gardens. Everybody needs a little change of scenery now and then.
- Ask and listen. Ask how they are doing, and listen to the answer. It is nice, with so much going on around them, to share it with someone with the patience to listen, even when it is a little dry.
- Don’t tell them of terrible stories you have heard, or hospital horror stories; no one actually in the hospital wants to hear them.
- Carry the conversation or watch TV. If your friend is awake, but low energy and tired, you might want to consider reading to them, or telling them a story or tuning in a show and watching it together. Sometimes companionable silence is best. Be prepared for them to fall asleep. You can bring a book or magazine for yourself, if you like.
- Know when to leave. If they are quiet and tired and they don’t ask you to stay, don’t. But if they ask you to stick around for a while, even if they nod off. Feel free to read a book and hang. They may only need the companionship.
- Bring something to do. If your friend is well but bored and you find yourselves with nothing to talk about during your visits, bring a deck of cards, or boggle. When things get too quiet, you can pull out your game and play.
- Mostly, just support your friend. Knowing they are important enough for you to take the time to spend with them is the key. Be optimistic, kind, gentle and patient and they will look forward to every visit, and you will have shown them the best kind of love.
Visit A Friend At Home
Visiting a sick friend at home is not like visiting them normally. Your friend is probably tired and potentially in pain. You need to organize your visit accordingly. Unless you know the person very intimately, you may want to arrange your visit ahead, to make sure your friend is ready for company. But being a good guest has different rules when the host is weak.
Bring your own refreshments or make them yourself. While making yourself at home in someone else’s house is not always done, there are times when it is necessary. If your friend is unwell, they are in no condition to make coffee and cookies for company. Make sure they can have whatever you are bringing, there is nothing worse than watching someone drinking coffee if you love it and can’t have it. Alternately, you can wait until you get there and then get yourself and your friend a drink from their kitchen.
Offer to make them something to eat or bring food, but make sure it is permitted first; also, steer clear of junk food, if people are on bed rest, being surrounded by unhealthy, fattening treats is more than most can resist. And indulging can make you feel terrible if you are already on bed rest and your exercise is restricted.
Make sure when you are done preparing and serving their food that you clean up. In fact, if you find dirty dishes, you may want to clean them all up while you are there. Keeping up with chores is probably challenging for your friend and they will likely appreciate the help.
Offer to help out. While you’re chatting, see if you can tidy up, plump their pillows or get them a blanket. You may even be able to help them with a few chores. Before you go home make sure that they have something to eat, to drink and something to do. Leave them in a better place than you found them.
Be sure that you listen though. Putting in a load of laundry when there’s no one to tend it is not helpful. Neither is leaving a bunch of clean dishes all over the counter if you can’t put them away.
Not Visiting Your Friend
You may not visit your loved one at all. Maybe your friend doesn’t want visitors, maybe you live too far away, there are many reasons why you may not be able to visit, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help your friend, and show your support.
Phone calls, emails, texts, cards, letters, there are a dozen ways to keep in touch and tell them how you feel. When you are stuck in bed your loved ones are your lifeline. Even if it is only five minutes to say “hi, how are you doing”, you will find that it means everything to your friend.
Remember, time is racing by for you, but it is crawling for them. Put reminders in your calendar, schedule emails to go out regularly. Find ways to make sure that you keep in touch frequently. Your messages don’t have to be long, the content is only part of the point, the contact is significant on its own.
The best gift I have ever received came from a friend who slipped 28 cards into my suitcase, one for each day I was to be in the hospital. My favorite thing to do every morning was to open the numbered card, do the hand made puzzle or joke, and read how much somebody loved me. It brightened every single day and I still thank her for it, 30 years later.
Read: Choosing a Get Well Gift