September 12, 2009

Visiting the sick

I've done both the worst and the best visiting in my time. The worst was when a friend had just undergone a full hysterectomy and was recovering in the hospital. I thought it would cheer her up if I read from an Erma Bombeck book. If you don't know Erma Bombeck's comedic writing then you wouldn't understand why my friend was nearly falling out......
of bed from laughing. But, at the same time she was screaming, "Stop, stop. It hurts too much!" I thought she was saying no when she meant yes. I kept reading. Finally, after she breathlessly whispered, "Stop reading," I stopped to check if she really did want me to stop. She explained that it hurt to be laughing and she feared it was going to bust her stitches.

When I did my best visiting was when, after trying to keep a conversation going relentlessly, my friend said, "You know, I just enjoy it that you're here in the room with me. We don't even have to talk. But, please stay." So I learned to keep the visits long, and I learned to shut up after the greetings and catching up was done. I even learned how to scrunch into the chair and take a brief nap at the same time as my friend. And, I learned it was ok to keep napping even if my friend was awake.


  1. How do you stop staring at a sick person's illness? Like I had a friend in a hospital and her legs were all swollen and purple. I couldn't stop my eyes from glancing over to her legs.

  2. It's natural that you would look. That's because you're curious; - you want to know why her legs are purple. Go ahead and ask. You might get a doctor-speak answer with all the terminology and the alphabet soup of the healthcare industry. That will keep a conversation going for awhile. And, it's alot better than screaming in shock, "Your legs are swollen and purple." Like your friend didn't know!!!!

    Talking about it will remove the stressful fact that your friend knows you noticed the swollen and purple legs, and you with the problem of not being able to stop looking. Once you both have talked about it, you will no longer have the need to know and your eyes won't be so jittery.

    I hope that helps.

  3. I was nervous about visiting my Aunt who was in hospice care. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to keep a conversation going, and I felt she would rather not talk about her illness. I remembered that she had been at my wedding, but had never seen photos from it. So I took the wedding album and we spent a good hour and a half going through it. After that it was easy to chat about all the relatives and listen to her tell stories about the good old days.

  4. My mother-in-law keeps up with current events so I never hesitate to ask her how she thinks government is doing or what she thinks about politics. She’s a talker so I just have to listen. I’ve learned a lot about world history from her.

  5. What do I do if I feel like crying when I’m visiting my Mom who is in hospice because of colon cancer? I’m worried that it doesn’t help her to see me crying.

  6. I will check with someone who has experience with this. Hold on.