What Should You Say to Someone Who's in the Hospital?

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Hospitals tend to make people uncomfortable. Why is it that you can be comfortable with a person in a typical setting but visiting them in the hospital is a little awkward? 

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Maybe the idea of hospitals makes you queasy. After all, you probably associate hospitals with times you weren’t feeling well. Or maybe you spent time at a hospital when a close family member was sick. People don’t usually associate “healing” with the word “hospital.” Instead, they often think of the words “sickness” or “death.”

If you have a friend or a family member in the hospital, you want to show support by going for a visit. It might feel scary but the person you’re visiting will appreciate it. But if you are feeling sick wait until you’re better to visit. You don’t want to bring new germs into the hospital. 

Here is a guide to help you get through the visit. In the first section, we will give you some advice on what to say and how to act when you visit someone in the hospital. Next, we will provide you with some ideas of what to text people you aren’t able to visit. Finally, there are some talking points and tips for when someone is released from the hospital. 

Words to Say In-Person to Someone in the Hospital

Please note that the following tips may not be appropriate in all situations. What gives comfort to one person may be annoying to another person, especially when you're trying to figure out what to say when someone's sick.

Also, some people may be in the hospital for grave reasons, and others may not. Make sure what you say and do is appropriate for the situation. 

"Is this a good time for a visit?"

Your friend or family member is in the hospital for a reason, and usually, that primary purpose is to get better. Be aware of this when you go to visit.

If your friend or family is talking with a member of the hospital staff when you arrive, don’t interrupt.  Go to the waiting room until the discussion or therapy session is finished. If the patient is sleeping, you may want to grab a cup of coffee and return later. 

It’s possible your friend or family member will turn you away. They might not be up to having a conversation with you. Respect this decision and don’t take it personally. Give a quick hug if that’s allowed and try again some other time.

"How are you feeling?"

Perhaps you want to avoid uncomfortable discussions at all costs. But when you visit a person in the hospital, it would be a mistake not to mention the elephant in the room. 

Instead of asking about their prognosis or other questions regarding the illness, keep your questions more general. You may feel more comfortable asking, “How are you feeling?” This question gets to the heart of the matter. But, it allows the patient to decide how much they want to share. 

"Can I get your mail for you? Mow your grass? Take your kids to swim practice?"

If someone is in the hospital because of an emergency, they probably left a lot of work incomplete. Think about the things you would need to have done if you were admitted to the hospital tomorrow.

Come up with a list of specific things you can do to help the individual. Some people are more likely to accept help if you name a particular task. If you aren’t sure what would be helpful, a meal or helping with the kids or pets are good starting points. If you’re still unsure, you may ask, “what can I do to help you?”

"What can I get for you that would make you more comfortable?"

Hospitals are not resorts. They are focused on healing, rather than pampering.

So, sometimes, "get well" wishes may not be enough. There are some things you may bring to the hospital that will make your friend or family member more comfortable. Perhaps you could offer to bring a robe, blanket, or pillow from home. Earplugs, books, and magazines, or a favorite lotion would be appreciated things to drop off too.

Be careful when offering to bring food or beverages. Some people are put on special diets while in hospital.  It would be unkind to tempt them with treats that they can’t eat.

What to Text Someone While They’re in the Hospital

If you live far away from a friend or family member, you may be unable to visit them while they are in the hospital. Or perhaps your cold symptoms force you to stay away from the person you love. 

Thank goodness for cell phones. For a brief period, they were discouraged in hospitals because they “interfered with the machines.” Whether that excuse was real or not, the interference problem has now been solved. Now patients can communicate with their friends and family members with relative ease. 

Here are some examples of texts you may consider sending to a person in the hospital. 

"I just wanted to let you know that I’m thinking about (or praying for) you."

Consider sending texts that are short. Focus on positive messages of support.

"I took Trixie for a walk. She misses you but is getting along great with my dog."

Let your friend know that you are taking care of the details of life while they can’t. Keeping them in the loop as things get done will take a lot of weight off their shoulders. 

"I ran across these links to funny bear videos, and I thought of you."

Laughter is supposed to be the best medicine. At the very least, sending your friend silly videos or memes will distract them for a few minutes. 

"I love you! I wish I could be there with you."

These words speak for themselves. 

What to Say to Someone Who Was Discharged from the Hospital

Hopefully, your friend or family member was discharged from the hospital for a good reason. But sometimes a discharge means that there are no further treatment options. You may want to be cautious before you send a celebratory message. 

Your friend may leave the hospital and be admitted to a hospice facility. There they will receive only palliative care. If this is the case, you may want to start preparing yourself for the inevitable. Spend more time with your loved one. Consider purchasing some books on grief

Regardless of why your friend was released from the hospital, they are probably exhausted. Give them time to rest and continue their recovery. 

Here are some ideas of what to say to someone who was released from the hospital.

"What are your discharge instructions?"

When in hospital, the nurses were always close at hand. It’s their job to make sure that your friend doesn’t do anything to hamper their recovery. Away from the watchful gaze of healthcare professionals, your friend may be tempted to fudge the rules a bit. 

If you know that your friend has certain tasks they aren’t allowed to perform offer to help them. It may be they can’t lift anything over ten pounds, which means they can’t buy dog food. Or if your friend is not supposed to drive, provide rides to and from follow-up appointments. If your family member is not supposed to climb stairs, retrieve any items they may need for them. Doing these things can help make sure your loved one recovers on schedule. 

"How are you feeling?"

At times, people are released from the hospital too early. Or they may be sent home from the hospital with new medications or therapies.

Keep a close eye on the patient while they are recovering at home. Look for signs of a fever. Depending upon their illness, you may need to monitor the person’s blood pressure or weight. You may need to pay attention to signs of water retention or weakness.

Stay vigilant with a person who is recovering at home. Do not hesitate to recommend that they return to the doctor if their symptoms seem severe.

"Are you on a restricted diet?"

Make sure you understand any dietary restrictions they may have. Before you go pick up groceries for your friend or bring them meals, confirm what they are allowed to have.

"Let me wash your sheets, mop your floor, or clean your toilets."

It may be a long time before your friend or family member can complete their household chores. In the meantime, throw in a load of towels while you are visiting. Or water their plants. Even taking care of a few little things will be a big help. 

"You are getting stronger every day!"

Recovery may be slow. And this may be frustrating to your friend. Remind them of the importance of progress. If they are still depressed, try to find something funny to share with them. 

Find the Right Words to Say

Hopefully, this guide has given you ideas on how to interact with someone close to you who is sick. Although you may be uncomfortable around illness, try to put those feelings aside. It might be difficult, but the most important thing is to provide support to your loved one. 

Let a loved one know you're thinking of them.
Send a care package to show you care. 

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