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When you stop to visit a sick or homebound person, there is one very important thing to remember. Is it what makes you feel good? What makes their family member happy? NO! You are there to serve the person you are visiting. To a lesser degree, you may be serving their family, especially if the person is not doing well or is not very alert.

As a nurse, I have observed a variety of visits. Some have caused me to cringe as I have been in the room giving medications, doing minor treatments, etc. Serving the person you are visiting means you don’t tell them about all the people you know who are sick. You don’t tell them all the things you know about treatments that don’t work, or alternative treatments that you think do work. They have a lot on their mind. You may not even be aware of much of it. Unless they ask for your input, they don’t need your added suggestions on their treatment plan.

For example, you may know they have cancer in a specific organ, but you don’t know what kind of cancer or the stage it is. These are important factors to know. You also don’t know how much treatment the person is willing to endure. Some patients are willing to fight with all they have. Others decide that they have a limited amount of time and want to enjoy their family during that time rather than endure treatments. They don’t usually want to discuss this with a visitor unless you are a very close friend. Even then, serving them often involves listening more than talking unless they specifically ask your opinion.

How we pray with those we visit also communicates. Don’t give away your personal views on treatments or doctors when you pray for the person.

Pray for GOD to heal them if you want, but also pray that GOD will strengthen them to accept whatever His will is for them. Because honestly, we don’t really know what that is,

Another way we often share our opinions is the way we pray with the sick person. Do you pray your opinion? Or do you pray for GOD’s will to be done even as you struggle with it. We need to be honest for sure when we visit with family and sick friends, but we don’t need to share all of the “truth” we believe.

Depending on their situation, they have enough to deal with. You are there to encourage them, to give them hope. It’s a time to be life-giving in your words and actions rather than adding burdens to them. If GOD wants to guide them in the direction you think they need to go, He will provide a way for them to go that way. I have yet to see a mention of anyone having cancer without comments from people who want to tell them about alternative cancer treatments. But the time for that is not when you go visit them.

Serving the sick person is your #1 priority when you visit. It takes many forms. Take your cues from listening to them. Let them set the tone for the visit. #NotesforCaregivers Click To Tweet

Other precautions I mention are the following:

  • Keep visits short unless there is a definite reason for you to stay longer. Home visits can be longer because the person can return to their room while you are there if they get too tired. Sometimes, the family member needs an encouraging visit too. A rule of thumb is that it is better to leave having them wishing you stayed longer than to stay too long and having them wondering if you will ever leave!
  • Make time to pray with the person and their family. Be encouraging. Pray something from GOD’s Word that will encourage their present situation. Never underestimate the encouraging power of prayer and the encouragement of GOD’s Word used appropriately.
  • Sometimes, with close friends, your visit may need to be totally diversionary. Take time to think if this needs to be your purpose. It often happens with a close friend who has had a disheartening diagnosis. She knows you are upset and you know you are upset. But she is tired of talking about illness at the same time. You may be in a position of being a diversion for her. You may be the one who comes with whacky cards or you sit on the porch and laugh and talk about the past. Most likely that laughter will be mixed with tears. You may be the person that can take her away from the craziness of her illness. Some people have that gift. If it is your gift, take advantage of it. Don’t worry about what other people think while you both sit and laugh. You know you are ministering to her in a way not everyone can. Just do it. You will also have days when you will pray with her. She will be in pain. You will be quieter. That’s okay. You goal is to minister to her primarily. That’s the most important thing! Listening is what tells you what she needs.

 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me,
I was in prison and you came to me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink?

And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you,
or naked and clothe you?

And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you,
as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,
you did it to me.’

Matthew 25:36-40 ESV