Tips on How to Talk to a Sick Person During a Health Crisis
- By: Scott Vanderhoef
Have you ever walked into the office or a get-together with friends or family and had someone say to you with great concern, “You really look tired today!” Although you may have been feeling relatively perky before that instance, all of a sudden you really DO feel tired and rundown. Our Dallas home care team understands that the words we speak to others together with the manner by which we interpret them are very meaningful. And when addressing people who have a long-term health issue, it’s vital that you thoughtfully consider how to talk to the person who is ill, and possibly most importantly, what NOT to say, to help the person feel his or her best.
While we are genuinely well meaning, a number of comments are better left unsaid. Blurting out a less-than-sensitive comment, according to Mindy Beth Lipson, a Phoenix psychologist, happens because, “I think people are just scared and nervous and don’t know how to respond. There might be several reasons, the first being it brings up their own mortality. Some people also just lack empathy.”
Following are several remarks to eliminate from your vernacular when talking with someone who is sick and facing a medical crisis:
- “My brother had the same diagnosis and was in poor health for many months.” Discussing unfavorable accounts about an individual with a similar medical diagnosis is a surefire way to bring the person’s spirits down. Rather, remember each person experiences health issues differently, and concentrate on the positives the individual you’re speaking with has achieved.
- “If you’d only stopped smoking (or exercised; or followed a healthy diet; etc.) this wouldn’t have happened.” It is impossible to know if the outcome might have been different if healthier choices had been made, and there is no benefit to playing “what if.” Focus your attention on providing the support and empathy the person needs now, and leave any thoughts of judgment at the door.
- “Do you remember…?” Particular to individuals who have dementia or other cognitive impairment, memory prompts such as this can add to the frustration and agitation already experienced. Sharing news from days gone by as if they’re brand-new is a wonderful way to engage the individual instead.
Your best bet is always to allow the person the ability to talk about (or not to share with you) his / her experience and thoughts, hold the individual’s hand if it is welcome, provide a pretty bouquet of flowers or another small present or treat, and just provide your warm, loving presence and support.
For more care tips, and for hands-on assistance with skilled care in the comfort of home, reach out to Heaven at Home Senior Care. We can offer expert, caring services for everyone facing a health crisis that delivers comfort and peace, through companionship, help with daily meals and household chores, transportation to doctor appointments and procedures, running errands, and more. Give us a call at 866-381-0500 to let us know how we’re able to help.