How to Visit a Sick Person

How to Visit a Sick PersonHow to Visit a Sick Person

The force of the other car T-boning his car had thrown him partially through the sunroof—despite his seatbelt. He now lay in a coma with injuries to his head, spleen, pelvis, ribs, spine and legs.

For four years, this young man had been part of our faculty family, where each month during the school year we gathered at our house for a home-cooked meal, conversation and games or movies. As the news trickled in from Facebook and through messages with his mom, I felt the urge to visit him in the hospital.

We had a short vacation, so we decided to take the opportunity to both visit our rental house and visit our ‘son.’ Two days and twelve hundred miles later, we stood at his bedside in the ICU. Tubes sprouted from his body and he looked so frail. He had opened his eyes once or twice earlier that day, but he had not come out of his coma yet. We didn’t stay long—just long enough for conversation and a short session of prayer.

I have no idea if the visit or the conversation or the prayer ‘did anything.’ But we felt as if we had done what God had urged us to do. We did it because we understood the power of a visit from our own time of distress and uncertainty.

Hospital visits make some people uncomfortable—mostly because they fear they won’t know what to say. I discovered when Pedro was sick that I often wished his visitors listened rather than talked—the physical presence of someone and the offer to pray with us mattered more than the conversation.

These tips might help you the next time you hear about a friend or acquaintance who is sick or hospitalized and you feel unsure as to whether or not you should visit:

1. Pray first. Ask for God to guide the conversation and seal your lips when you should remain quiet.
2. Set a timer for 10 minutes. Try to keep the visit short—sick people usually don’t have a lot of energy, nor do they want to offend someone who has come to visit them. If they really want you to stay longer, they will let you know.
3. Say little. All you really need to say is, “I heard you were sick/not feeling well. I stopped by to let you know I care and to see if there is anything I can do to help.”
4. Offer to perform some service while you’re there. Ask if you can run fetch coffee for any family members who might be in the room.
5. Offer to pray with them or for them—but don’t push the issue.

Remember that coming alongside someone in crisis means exactly that. You don’t need to take over the care and healing of the sick or injured one. Click To TweetYou don’t need to give advice. You just need to be there, to let them know you care.

Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a ‘recovering cancer caregiver’ who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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  • This is excellent. Thank you for these practical tips!
    Stacy recently posted…Five Minute Friday: visitMy Profile

    • You’re welcome :). Thanks for stopping by!

  • Well said Anita! I do think it lifts the patient’s spirits when we visit them. I visited my son many times in the hospital and the visits were filled with prayer, casual talk and most of the time brief visits because he needed rest and generally didn’t feel well. But the prayers gave us the reassurance that we were both trusting God and it brought us together in a beautiful way.
    Verona recently posted…Why a Visit can Change Your LifeMy Profile

    • I’m so sorry about your son. It’s not easy to see a loved one in pain.

  • Tara

    This is such a helpful post. I’ll admit it has never been easy for me to visit in the hospital. Probably because growing up Mom spent so much time there. But I’m getting more intentional and trying to be a better listener when I visit people in the hospital.

    • :). I’m sure you do a lovely job, Tara!

  • This is soooo good. My Daddy used to say, “If someone is sick enough to be in the hospital, they are sick enough to NOT need visitors.” I always remember that if I go to visit someone who is sick, and just stay a moment. Your list is perfect. Perhaps you could create a sign with those on it and market it to hospitals to put on patient room doors????? Bless you, friend.
    Leah Adams recently posted…Five Minute Friday ~ VisitMy Profile

    • Carol (my blogging partner) and I have talked about making a sign for cancer patients to hang on their front doors, but I’ve never thought of making signs for a hospital :).

  • What a practical post, Anita. Your tips are spot on. As one who’s been in the hospital for short periods, sometimes just having someone take time out of their day to come and visit speaks volumes. Your suggestion to keep the visit short and to look for ways to help others is so good.

    Thank you for sharing this!
    Jeanne Takenaka recently posted…Visit: What Comes In a VisitMy Profile

    • :). I’m sure I left some important things off the list–but we only had five minutes ;).

  • I get that, people just don’t now how to be in a hospital environment, it makes people nervous and they think they have to talk constantly, but like you say just the fact they turned up is enough.
    claire recently posted…Recent ReadsMy Profile

    • Yep. Just being there is so important. Hugs and offers to help work well, too ;).

  • What a much needed post. I have never been one that just knows how to visit. I don’t know what to say or do. I worry about bothering the sick person or taking away from their family time. But I’m getting more intentional and trying to be a better at reaching out to meet the needs.
    Amy P Boyd recently posted…Promised VisitsMy Profile

    • I feel your pain, Amy! I don’t think I’d be brave or know much about it if Pedro hadn’t been so sick!

  • What an insightful post.
    I am one of those people who loathes going to the hospital to visit.
    You are right, it is the coming along side and simply sitting letting a person know you are there and that you care that makes all the difference. Because that is what Christ does with us.
    Leah recently posted…VISIT_five minute fridayMy Profile

    • :)–Believe me, I don’t think I’m ‘good’ at it, but sometimes I feel really compelled (pushed by the Holy Spirit) to do it. I probably out to branch out and not be afraid to drop by with a pot of soup for sick friends who aren’t in the hospital!

  • How often we underestimate the value of presence. Thank you for sharing this wisdom, Anita. And thank you for listening to God’s voice when he prompted you to visit.
    Debby recently posted…Five-Minute Friday {visit}My Profile

  • Anita, this is really excellent! So needed. Many of us are scared of hospital visits. (I’m used to them since my husband is a pastor AND a Latin America, double dose of hospital visits in those two identities.) Thanks for your reassurance, also for these helpful tips. Especially 10 minutes and not talking too much. I need to remember that one myself for sure.
    Betsy de Cruz recently posted…Open Homes, Open Hearts (Five Minute Friday)My Profile

  • I don’t know if that car wreck was recent or if your friend is okay, but that sounds terrible and I really hope and pray all is well with him and his family. This is such a great list. Very helpful. I remember visiting our neighbor after she had hip surgery and although usually very social, she wasn’t up for visitors. So we left without entering the room. So that is one other piece of advice to just be prepared for anything depending on the patient. I know I had that happen when I had just had a baby. I loved visitors, but their were a couple times I ended up not feeling well enough for it.
    Messy Mom recently posted…3 Ways To Screen Netflix (and other forms of entertainment)My Profile

  • This is SO good. I think sometimes we stay longer because WE want to or because we think we should. Love the idea of doing something to help the patient or family members in the room. Even “Do you want me to stay here while you take a walk?”

    I agree, too, about praying only if the patient is okay with it. A year or so ago I visited a family member in the hospital and said, “Can I pray with you before I go?” I was actually kind of surprised that she said, “I don’t think so,” though in retrospect I realize I should have expected that. However, she reached out her hand to say Goodbye, so I prayed silently while I held her hand.
    Melissa recently posted…Visiting Loved Ones – Five Minute FridayMy Profile

  • Anita,
    These are all great! And even though I’ve done my share if visiting, (hubby is a pastor) these are a very helpful reminder. We don’t know what to do either, but the most important thing is to always show love and sharing truth is THE best way to do that!
    Christy recently posted…Walls of a “Frigid wife” Aren’t Built in a DayMy Profile

  • Anita, your advice is priceless. It is so important to show we care and leave behind the temptation to try to “fix” what’s wrong! Just care….just care….and pray…offer to come in person to pray. These are absolutely the best we can offer anyone.
    Thank you, and bless you with GREAT JOY on your adventure journey with Jesus!!

  • this is great advice and the short visit, no medical advice, praying advice goes double for those with head injuries! i am a nurse who worked the last 5 yrs. b/f retiring in rehab…the kind where pts. go right out of the hospital!

    they are still quite sick! and processing information is very difficult and confusing. giving them time to talk helps you understand how much they really are processing! 10 minutes is a great amount of time to visit. sometimes even that can be too much.

    when i speak of head injuries, i’m also talking about strokes. a short visit, a hug and simple prayer. please, leave off all the horror stories!!! the family does not need to hear them right now. you are there to encourage them and lift them up and remind them that GOD is in control of this situation and will be faithful in caring for all of them.
    martha brady recently posted…A HEALTHY COMPUTER SHOWS UP UNHEALTHY…My Profile

  • Great advice! I find when something is wrong with me or a family member, all I want to do is talk. Of course, that’s me a lot of the time, but especially when something is wrong. So I love when people listen. Now I’m working on becoming a better listener to others who need to talk.
    Laura recently posted…Five Tips On Getting Things DoneMy Profile

  • This post has such relevance to so many and I am glad you shared it. The list is a great idea because it gives you a guide, it reminds us of the purpose of our visit and we should always be consistently thinking of the needs of the one who really may just need the presence of a willing heart more than anything else.

    I know when our daughter was in the hospital for extended periods, the visits both encouraged and drained me. My personality would want to ‘entertain’ them but my energy was not there to do it. Whether or not they expected it, the short quick visit was often enough to lift me and encourage us as we waited to get well.

    Thanks again!
    Dawn recently posted…Relentless GraceMy Profile

    • I hope that your daughter is no longer needing to have extended stays in the hospital! You’re right, though, I often felt like I needed to entertain visitors–and it was exhausting!

  • Good tips for healthy ministering instead of overwhelming!

  • I needed this. I’m visiting my sick grandma next week. Thanks for sharing.
    Alice William recently posted…Sons, not Slaves!My Profile