Tips for Visiting a Patient in the Hospital

Many people want to visit the hospital when a friend or family member requires inpatient care, but some find that it is difficult to know what to do or say. Visitors may worry about getting in the way, upsetting the patient, or even creating an awkward social situation.

It is true that a visit may be ill-timed if there are problems in the relationship, or if seeing a particular visitor may cause the patient stress. If the relationship is a good one, and if the visitor is able to show love and good cheer, the patient may pick up on these feelings and begin to reciprocate.

This effect works best when the patient wants a visit, so any potential well-wishers should check first. Ideally, a visitor will talk with the patient or a family member about the best time to arrive and then call just before leaving to confirm. Once there, the visitor should remain aware of the patient’s energy level and stay no more than 20 minutes, or leave when the patient appears to be getting tired.

All visitors should wash or sanitize their hands and should avoid wearing perfume or scents, as these can irritate some people. A gift is a nice idea, but it should be something that is entertaining or useful, such as crossword puzzles or warm socks. Flowers are cheery at first but do not stay that way.

Finally, visitors must remember that they are there to provide companionship. Companionable silence can be very comforting, particularly if it communicates to the patient that he or she does not need to entertain the visitor. Visitors can offer light conversation and share relevant news, but listening is often the most important thing that the visitor can do.

About the Author:

Abhishek Kapila MD

Dr. Abhishek Kapila has served as a hospitalist at several Kentucky medical centers. Now a hospitalist with EmCare in Frankfort, Dr. Abhishek Kapila oversees the treatment of patients admitted to the hospital.

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