Be sensitive about what you ask or say when visiting
By Chaplain Dan Langerock
You’ve seen it happen on television. A person’s house has just burned down and the reporter asks, “How do you feel about losing your home?” Duh! One lady, when asked this by a newsperson said “Well, how would you feel in this circumstance?”
This monumental goof can also be seen in the hospital setting at times. When people don’t know what to say during a tragedy, they may ask a question or say something very unfeeling to a grieving person.
If you must ask questions try these:
“You are feeling overwhelmed and uncertain now. When you feel like talking, please tell me what else you are feeling so I can help to comfort you in some way. “
“Is there anything on your mind you would like to discuss? I will be glad to listen and help in anyway I can.”
“Are there any household chores or errands you would like me to run while you are here visiting?
These could be used if someone is visiting a loved one in the hospital to help to lighten their load. With a little creativity on your part, they can be modified if you are addressing the patient themselves.
Don’t bring up family squabbles or negative subjects to a patient. These things may already be in their thoughts, but they don’t need you to remind them. If they happen to bring this up, listen rather than commenting too much. You may act as a sounding board for the person by just listening, and help to relieve their stress. Surprisingly, a lot of people ask for prayer for families rather than themselves. This shows this subject is already in their thoughts.
Try to talk about something positive with the patient like returning to their home, a visit from a special friend or loved one, a trip they are planning for the future. This will help them heal faster and give them somethiing to look forward to in the near future.
If they should bring up negative subjects, don’t give them false hope about their illness but try to be positive anyway. Otherwise it is like throwing water on a drowning person, they already feel bad, then you add more to it by saying the wrong thing. The best solution in a situation like this is to be a good listener to let them air out their thoughts.
Think about what you would want discussed if you should ever become ill, and this will be a good guideline for what you say to others. Be sensitive to their needs as you would want yours to be addressed in the same situation. Be wise in what you say and how you say it, and you will always be a welcome visitor.