1. Consider visiting them during regular visiting hours. It’s exceedingly difficult to get any real rest while in the hospital, given all the necessary (and unnecessary) interruptions. This makes it very important to visit, whenever possible, only during visiting hours and to keep your visit brief, unless the situation deems otherwise. When you’re flat on your back, feeling weak and ill, a five minute visit can feel like twenty-five minutes. Your visit can help infuse strength and encouragement, so don’t drain away that energy by staying too long. I’ll have more to say about this at the end of this post.
2. Be clean for the patient’s benefit, not just your own. Many folks will use sanitizer or wash their hands following a visit to decrease their own odds of picking up an infection. This is a very good practice; just do it! However, go a step further: be one of those folks who does such before the visit, not only following. Do this specifically for the patient’s benefit. By visiting, you’ll be around a person whose immune system is likely somewhat compromised and can’t handle what you might be able to ward off with ease. And so, wash up or sanitize, just before you enter the room. Open the door with your non-dominant hand. Observe whatever directions are on the door or on the wall, too (i.e. – check with nurse’s station before entering, gown up, don a mask, wear gloves, don’t touch, or whatever). Don’t pick and choose which directions to follow; look for them and follow them all. They’re there for a reason. And I assume it goes without saying that there is no blessing in visiting someone who is sick when you are sick yourself. Bless the patient you’re visiting with your good habits.
3. Think allergies. Little things can make for big problems. That means don’t bring the patient flowers unless you’re certain the patient is not allergic to any of the flowers or plants in the arrangement. The same holds true for items aside from flowers and plants so don’t smuggle food in from outside for the patient. I’ve been personally aware of several instances across the years where severe health issues arose – even near death in one instance! – for failure to abide by this one simple rule. The culprit would likely be something you would have a hard time guessing. I had a friend who was hyper-allergic to eucalyptus plants. I don’t know how many times he had to wave off people who unwittingly tried to bring him one when he was hospitalized or confined at home. As for myself, I’m not only hyper-allergic to baby’s breath, but am quite sensitive to latex rubber, even just the powder on balloons or hospital gloves. Be aware of what most people think little about: allergies.
4. Put the patient first with the attitude you bring with you. Don’t dwell on difficult matters, continually sighing and wringing your hands. Similarly, don’t try to be a clown with everything you say, thinking by doing so you’ll bring a bit of cheer into the room. A patient is commonly exposed to both of those extremes so bless them with the gift normalcy by just being yourself with a “your needs come before mine” mindset and behavior.
5. Follow the patient’s lead. If they want to talk about their condition, talk about their condition. If they want to keep the subject on other things, respect them enough to do so. They have all day and night to dwell on their condition. For some people, that means they’d welcome the distraction for a while of thinking about other things during your visit. For others, it means they’d welcome a heart and ear that will listen and will allow them to vent off some of their pressure and stress. Be attentive and flexible, largely allowing the patient to be the one to chart the course you sail together.
6. Pray in their presence. Don’t be bashful and cop out of this by saying, “I’ll be praying for you.” Ask them if they’d mind if you’d pray for them right then and there in their presence. If they’re agreeable, don’t think you have to be original or make a speech. You can pray the Lord’s Prayer. Or pray you can simply pray: “Holy Father, in the name of your Son Jesus, I ask you to strengthen, heal, and bless this one you love so much. I ask in faith because of your great love and care. Amen.” You can do this. And as you pray, if possible, hold the patient’s hand or lightly rest your hand on their shoulder. Better still, have everyone who is in the room join hands as you pray. Spread the blessing around.
7. Respect their privacy. Not everyone wants others to know they’re hospitalized, so ask if they mind if you mention it to anyone else. Respect their answer. Some won’t mind others knowing they’re hospitalized, but will not want company. Respect their request. Others will be fine with visits from others, but would appreciate you not going into any detail at all as to why they’re hospitalized, their condition, their treatment, or their difficulties. Respect them in that. And some won’t care if the world knows all and they simply can’t get enough company. Respect their wishes and know full well that they’re in the small minority of folks who are that transparent. In all cases, the operative word is “respect.” Don’t substitute what you would want if you were in their shoes over their desires. R-E-S-P-E-C-T them; find out what it means for them.