Do’s and Don’ts for Hospital Visits: Lessons from My Summer
In August, our son was involved in a serious accident. If you’ve never received that phone call or text—the one that tells you your child’s in trouble—please know I don’t recommend it. No matter how big your faith, your heart pounds, your mind races, and tears well in your eyes until you hear, “He should be OK.”
Even with those words, I ran on pure adrenaline from about 6:15 in the morning until about twenty-three hours later, in which time I flew from Philadelphia (where I had just finished teaching at the Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference) to Los Angeles, rented a car, and drove two-plus hours to the hospital where my son lay in the CCU. I actually reached his side by 10:30 Pacific Time, but it took me a few more hours to calm down enough to doze in the chair beside his bed.
In what we see as a miracle, our son spent only three days in CCU and was released from the hospital in another two. But during those days, I learned a few things about how to best minister to those in the hospital—and their families—that I thought I’d share here. These do’s and don’ts will change the way I minister to others, I know.
Do let your friends know you’re praying for and thinking about them. Even if you can’t visit (as most of my friends couldn’t because of the distance), social media posts, texts, and emails mean a lot. With longer stays than ours, patients and families can sometimes feel neglected. Don’t forget them or the battles they face.
Don’t expect them to respond. A hospital room is a surprisingly busy place. At first, the volume of “Is he OK?” texts and other messages overwhelmed me. Even when I stayed in a nearby home, I had to be at the hospital early to catch the doctor, and I never wanted to miss any detail of his recovery process. I communicated when I could and hoped for forgiveness when I didn’t or couldn’t.
Do keep your visits short. The patient’s main work is recovery, and any caregivers are doing their best to aid in that work. You may not realize the patient has just returned from an exhausting procedure or needs a bathroom break. Give your words of encouragement and hope without settling in for a long stay.
Don’t ask too many questions. Allow the patient or the family to share as they wish, but resist the urge to ask for too much explanation. Different people have different comfort levels, and medical or other questions often take time (and expert opinions) before answers are known.
Do think about the caregiver. Andrew already had a balloon, stuffed animal, and flowers in his room before I arrived. I didn’t need or expect anything, but I was blessed by thoughtful gifts including (from brand-new friends) the offer of a place to stay, special snacks (sent from a long-distance friend who checked with my husband for my likes/dislikes, then recruited a local friend to deliver them) along with many prayers and offers of help. Such kind and thoughtful acts created a climate in which I could extend similar grace to my son.
Have you cared for someone in the hospital? Do you have some do’s and don’ts to add to my list? I’d love to hear from you on social media or in the comment section below.
For His glory,