Saturday, October 17, 2020

How to Visit the Sick

Caring for Paul since his fall has been an intense education, and in a short time I've become an expert at subjects I barely knew existed before.

Of course I knew about visiting the sick, but in three months I've gone from a 10th grade level to a Ph.D.

Some of us know we should visit the unfortunate, but we're never quite sure how to go about it.  So I'm going to share a few how-to's. Let's remember, though, that it's like making a pan of brownies. The important thing is to do it. Just show up. Even if you mess up an ingredient or two, it will still taste really good.

1. Remember that you are dealing with fragile people. Tread a bit softly, go gently, speak carefully. The sick person is hurting, the caregivers are stretched to their limits, and the family members are dealing with lives turned upside down and loved ones not being quite who they used to be.

2. Phone ahead. Caregiving takes a lot of time. Hospitals have specific expectations. Call first. No one wants a visitor in the middle of transferring to the restroom with their hospital gown flapping in the breeze.

3. Ask about restrictions. Should you wear a mask? Is it ok to hug? What are the best times to visit? How many visitors can come at one time?

4. Keep it brief. Showing up is what matters, not the length of the visit.

5. Having said that, read the cues and listen well. Patients sometimes love to recount every detail of the injury or sickness. Listening to all the gory details is a great way to serve and love, even if it takes an hour. Some of you heard more details of Paul's accident than you ever asked for. It was healing for him to talk about it. Bless you for listening.

6. Make it about them. Ask questions, listen, nod. This isn't the time to spout about the election or how the car repair guy tried to talk you into a new alternator. People who are barely surviving a crisis have forgotten that elections even exist, and they couldn't care less about alternators. Remember, they are emotionally fragile and physically exhausted. You are the strong person in this story. Handle them with care. They don't have the strength to take care of you, or to dredge up sympathy about car repairs.

7. Don't delay a visit just because you don't have food or flowers to bring. Your presence is enough. Food and flowers are awfully nice, though, if you want to bring them, even if it's a bag of oranges you pick up at the grocery store on your way over, or handpicked wildflowers in a coffee mug. In fact, anything you give will be deep with meaning. CD's to listen to. A card from a child. Books. A snuggly blanket. Anything. Most of all, though, your presence, showing up. The caregiver will cry. It will mean that much.

8. Mentioning your own medical experience is a bit of a gamble. Sometimes it's encouraging, such as when my friend Hope told us how she survived a broken neck and, for the first time, we compared stories with someone who truly understood. However, if you're talking with someone who just broke 15 bones and is trussed up in casts and braces from head to hips, you might not want to elaborate on the time you hit your head on the swing and needed five stitches. Just saying.

9. Leave your answers at home. You might "know" all about what God is trying to teach them or how he's going to redeem this situation. You have a deep sense that this is God's discipline to keep them from a bad decision. You had a prophetic sense that this would happen. Keep this information to yourself for now. The Holy Spirit is good at doling out information in the right doses at the right time.  The sick person needs you to show up, listen, nod, and read the 23rd Psalm.

What if you have the answers on which supplements the patient should be taking? Whether it's Vitamin D, oregano oil, or Plexus, you're convinced it would help them heal. The best option is to give them your specific potion as a gift. A patient or caregiver in crisis mode can't make good decisions about purchasing supplements and is probably worried about finances. Suggesting they buy your product at this time is in poor taste. If you really believe it would help, give them a bottle and instructions, and let them decide if they want to take it or not. If it works wonders, they'll be back for more, and they'll be willing to pay.

10. Believe that your presence matters. You might think you're not a relative or pastor but only a mom stopping by for a minute while the kids wait in the car, or a farmer parking a seed truck beside the road and coming in for a visit. Those brief visits mean more than you'll ever know. What you have to offer is valuable and meaningful. Just show up.

Don't ever let the fear of doing it wrong keep you from visiting the sick. These are only suggestions to make a good experience even better. I'm sure that Paul's many visitors will never know how much their presence meant to all of us, and especially to him.

Matthew 25:34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Quote of the Day:

"We pray for the aged, the sick and the afflicted, all those who need thy prayers."

--Alvin H., a minister in my childhood. We got annoyed at the lack of logic in "those who need thy prayers," but we did learn to think of the aged, sick, and afflicted.


  1. Excellent advice. Some things I never really thought about!

  2. YES. "Some of you heard more details . . .than you ever asked for. . . . Bless you for listening." Sometimes the only way to process something is to talk about it - and rehearse it - and retell it - to as many people as will listen.

  3. Appreciated this list. And I loved the quote at the end😆

  4. Thanks for sharing these wise words!

    1. You're welcome. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Really admire your lovely blending of Christian teachings and common sense.