Thursday, September 18, 2014

Health Ministry Newsletter-September 2014 by Lisa Fleetwood

How to Visit Someone in the Hospital

Have you ever visited a church member in the hospital only to wait in the hallway until the nurse is finished, or been relegated to the waiting room because there are too many people in the patient’s room? Have you popped into the hospital to see the sweet elderly gentleman that sits two pews up only to discover he had a bad night and can’t stay awake? If so, you know that visiting the sick can be a tricky situation. When things go well, everyone reaps the benefits of fellowship and encouragement but when circumstances vary, the results can leave you frustrated and the patient without the joy of your room-brightening smile! Remember that visiting the sick is an important responsibility that Jesus himself commanded.

Read Matthew 25:31-36 (ESV). 31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

Matthew shows the importance of our faith in action. Verse 35 tells us exactly what those actions should include! Since we are charged with this important responsibility, let’s look at some tips to ensure everyone has the best possible outcome.

Don’t underplay the situation. Being in the hospital is a BIG deal. It can be traumatizing, intimidating, and sometimes humiliating. Don’t underestimate the experience. If someone is going in for an elective procedure, make sure to let them know you are praying before they are admitted. Ask them what concerns them the most (privacy, pain, fear, insomnia, recovery, food) and lift up prayers that are specific. Pray with them and continue these specific prayers when you get home.

No need to visit everyone. If you aren’t particularly close to the person, postpone your visit until they are discharged to home. In 2014, if you are hospitalized, it is because your are significantly ill. Allow those closest to the patient to provide support at this time as they can often coordinate visits and care in a manner that meets the patient’s needs best. Once the patient is at home, your visit will be a source of joy as they regain strength and transition back to daily living.

Talk openly. Sometimes, patients in the hospital are facing serious, life-threatening illness. Don’t tip toe around the elephant in the room or worse yet, pretend it’s not there at all. If someone has been diagnosed with cancer, don’t discuss the beautiful weather or your upcoming trip. Ask them how they are coping, what they need, and their greatest concerns. Pray with them, hold their hand, and express your love and support. Remember Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn.” Our church family is our greatest asset in times of despair.

Bring a card. When your loved one returns home, they will try to recall the blur of people that visited them while they were in the hospital. Bringing a card will not just brighten their room in the moment, but it will serve as a reminder that you stopped in to show your support in the weeks after they are discharged. After a week long hospitalization in 2012, I struggled to recollect the many supporters that encouraged me with visits during my stay. Weeks later, I reviewed the lovely cards and sentiments that I received. I was reminded, yet again, of the outpouring of support that I received from my church family.

Keep it to yourself. Whatever is shared during your visit, keep it private. A
hospital stay can be a very vulnerable time for a patient. As a visitor, you may overhear sensitive health information or the patient may voluntarily disclose details of their illness with you. Either way, keep the information quiet. If you feel compelled to share, make sure you clear it with the patient beforehand. Clarify with them what can and can’t be disclosed to others.

Know when to leave (or when to stay). Make your visit short and sweet.
Hospitalized patients are often in pain, medicated, and exhausted. It is important that you express your care and support, but after that they will need to rest. The exception comes when you are providing relief for the caregiver. Offer to sit with the patient so that their loved one is able to go home, shower, and rest. In this situation, it is okay to sit quietly (bring a magazine or book) and encourage the patient to rest. Let their behavior be your guide. If they look sleepy, pull your chair into the corner and quietly read while they sleep.

Don’t forget when they get home….

  • Make sure that you provide meals that adhere to their ordered diet. Those with high blood pressure or heart disease may be on a sodium restricted diet. When in doubt, ask! Ensure that the meal you provide will help them heal!
  • Offer to run errands like grocery shopping or pharmacy pick-ups. It will ease the burden of the primary caregiver to know they have what they need without leaving their newly discharged loved one. 
  • Keep visiting. After discharge, patients can sink into a depression. Your visits are more important than ever. Bring them your favorite book to borrow or a flower from your garden. The gesture will brighten their day and speed their healing.

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