Visits from family and friends while you are hospitalized or bedridden at home are a great consolation and a breath of fresh air for both the patient as well as the bystanders. But if you are a careless, insensitive visitor, you’d just be a burden and a thorn in the flesh. What a patient needs the most at the hour of physical ailment are good rest and peace of mind. So, it is on the part of the visitor to determine if your visit might cause discomfort to the already suffering patient.
There are two types of visitors whose visits are despised by a patient and his/her family. The first type is a person who comes with an overload of pity and sympathy: “Oh, my God! I can’t bear to see you this way. Of all people, why did it happen to you… ” The second type of visitor is overloaded with advice and directives: “There is another hospital that offers better treatment for this ailment,” – “You are being fleeced here.” – “Ayurvedic treatment is best, I know it personally,” thus goes their free and unwelcome comments. Some of such persons even question the doctors and nurses and engage in verbal duel with them. As a consequence, sometimes the hospital staffs even lose interest in the patient. The fact of the matter is that neither the patient, nor the bystanders feel comforted by the visit of such persons. The need of the hour is not sympathy, pity or advice, but empathy – to feel one with the suffering person and be a source of psychological support.
As a visitor, you are there to support the patient and family members. Having an upsetting conversation in the presence of the patient, even when heavily sedated, can have extremely negative consequences. So can whispering, when the patient believes something is being withheld. State everything in the positive. It is better to avoid discussing the sickness of the patient with him or his family members. After all, that person is obviously there for treatment of a sickness which has caused pain and distress. If you cannot do anything about it, there is no use of asking many questions pointedly and reminding the person of his pain. The same thing applies to treatment. Many people start telling about their own ailments and experiences of different types of treatment while visiting a sick individual. It should be remembered that no two persons are exactly alike. In two persons even if the disease is the same, there are multiple factors which determine the treatment and the response to treatment, which only a competent doctor can judge or decide.
Certainly it is a good gesture to visit friends or family when they are hospitalised but what one should not forget is that the patient needs rest during this time. You must respect the patient and ensure that your visit isn’t tiring them or causing any inconvenience. A patient typically feels the need to make every visitor feel welcomed and appreciated. The patient and the bystander might be genuinely grateful that you visited; even so, this can be extremely draining for the patient. Just remember, every visit that requires engagement on the part of the patient, can be emotionally and physically draining. Don’t forget that patients are in the hospital because they are not well and need to get better; they’re not just hanging out, watching TV, and waiting for visitors. If you notice that the patient’s eyes are closing while you are talking with them, it’s probably because they’re medicated or simply exhausted and ready to rest, so excuse yourself so they can rest without feeling like they are being rude to you. You must respect their privacy, especially when his/her dress needs to be changed or when doctor comes for examination.
You don’t have to come by and visit for the patient to know you care. In fact, depending on the severity of the patient’s illness or injury, sometimes the most caring thing you can do is to just stay away and give the patient space to heal. In some Western countries you are not allowed to visit an admitted patient. Why give your infection to the already suffering patient? Sometimes it will be enough to visit the bystander or the relatives to show them you are concerned and you care. Also, don’t make frequent phone calls directly to the patient. It becomes an obligation to attend the call and explain of his condition repeatedly to each and every caller. If you feel the need to let the person know you care, send an email or an SMS, or an encouraging word to the patient through a family member.
That being said, please don’t stop visiting hospitalized patients! They need our support. Just do so in a thoughtful and compassionate way. Keeping these small things in mind, when one goes to visit a patient, the visit will be useful and the patient and his care takers will feel grateful.