When Should I Visit?

Afternon Slump borderIt is often difficult to know what time of the day, or even which day, to visit. You don’t want to arrive when they’ve just returned from a chemo session for example, or when they’re getting ready to go for blood tests, and are feeling anxious. They may even be struggling with their appearance, or feeling robbed of their dignity, and not want visitors at all.

I mentioned in a previous blog that I recently lost two relatives within a few months of each other. They were in fact husband and wife.

The wife became very gaunt and fragile and hated being seen that way. She didn’t want visitors apart from immediate family. Some people took exception to this and made it really awkward as they demanded to be allowed to visit–or just popped in. This caused the patient and family unnecessary stress.

The husband, a few months later, was hospitalised with aggressive cancer and there was nothing that could be done. He had a severe cough and was on continuous oxygen. Whenever he tried to speak, he broke into painful coughing, battling to breathe. He couldn’t cope with visitors who asked questions. So we had to say, “No visitors!” Despite these appeals, a number of people did come, and we were in the embarrassing situation of having to ask them to leave.

It is far better to phone the patient, or if necessary (as in both the above cases) the person closest to the patient, and ask when it will be convenient and what you can bring, if anything.

If you are asked not to visit, please accept this request. It may be temporary–or it may be for a long period. It is especially difficult if the patient is terminal. But honour their feelings. Write them a note, telling them how you care. Send them a card, with your own words, giving them a message of appreciation or encouragement. Those will be far more helpful than an unwanted visit.


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