Visiting the Sick

Do's and Don't's

"Often visiting a sick friend or relative in the hospital can be an awkward experience. Most of us do not have any particular training in this field and are often at a loss for something to say or are on "pins and needles" because we are afraid we might say the wrong thing. Visiting the sick is not just a polite thing to do but, in the eyes of the church, it is an important ministry. Remember Christ's own words, "I came not to be served, but to serve and to give my life." Like the Lord, the church is a servant community. With commendation, Jesus affirmed the care and the sick in his words, "I was sick and you visited me." If we are followers of the suffering servant, we will care for those who suffer. In other words, we visit not to meet our own needs, but the needs of others."
-- The Rev'd S. J. Baxter.

The following are some helpful hints to use when calling upon someone who is in hospital. This information has been provided by the Anglican Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island Health Care Chaplains.

  1. Knock on the door gently, but audibly, even if the door is open. This gives the patient the chance to cover up if necessary and to prevent any embarrassments.
  2. Don't chew gum or eat candies.
  3. Be careful about your grooming, body and breath odours and tone of voice. Sick people have a heighten awareness of such things and loud voices will grate on their ears. However, speaking to softly strains the persons hearing. Strong perfume and other scents can be very uncomfortable for the patient.
  4. Sit or stand so that the patient can easily hear and see you without strain.
  5. Don't stay too long. For the patient's sake err on the side of brevity, but don't act in a hurry to get away.
  6. Generally you should not sit on the patient's bed. Not only might you hurt the patient but the bed is the last bit of territory the patient can call her own. Respect it.
  7. Do not raise depressing or alarming topics with the patient. Commenting on the dreary weather or upon your own troubles are depressing topics for anyone.
  8. Don't engage in a whispered conversation with a nurse or relative anywhere near the patient or outside the door. Even if you are not talking about her at all, she might think you are.
  9. Church and community news is okay in its place, but avoid gossip which can become negative and edged with malice.
  10. Don't regale the patient with stories of your own illnesses and operations or those of your relatives and friends.
  11. If the patient says "I am afraid", don't say, "you should not be afraid." Avoid changing the subject whenever the patient begins to talk of some subject filled with emotion. Do not reprimand or scold the patent either directly or by implication.
  12. In bereavement situations, do not jump to quickly into the discussion of the future.
  13. Do not think of yourself as a problem solver.
  14. Be sensitive to what "being a patient" means. For example; there are losses being experienced: loss of freedom, and privacy and a sense of dignity.

The Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island provides several Health Care Chaplains within the Queen Elizabeth II Health Care Facility in Halifax. Chaplains of other denominations and religions are also available. For further information concerning the visiting of those who are ill in Hospital or for further information on Chaplaincy services of the Anglican Church, contact one of the Health Care Chaplains in the Halifax Hospitals or contact a local member of the clergy.


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