Illness is hard! Hospitalizations are stressful! Whether a hospitalization is the result of a one-time episode of sickness, or frequently as the result of a chronic illness, they are always difficult. Having experienced this in our family, I have learned some things along the way; things I wish I had known before now, things I wish I would have done differently to help others battling illness. Almost all of us will either experience time in a hospital or know someone who is or does at some point in our lives. The intent of this blog post is to give you ideas of practical ways you can support the people in your life who are walking through sickness.
1. Encouragement – Acknowledge the tough time they are experiencing, and let them know you care. This can be done through cards, emails, phone calls, texts, and visits. This really does make a difference, so don’t hesitate to send repeated words of encouragement.
2. Prayer – An illness/hospitalization affects the whole family, so pray for everyone involved, and let them know you’re doing so. Instead of simply saying, “I’m praying for you,” let them know how you are praying specifically. Here is an example from an email I received the last time my husband was in the hospital, “I’ve been praying for you a lot, hoping that you can find God’s peace in the midst of the storm.” It’s easier to believe you are being lifted up in prayer when people tell you specifically how they are praying.
3. Provide Meals – Meal planning can be a daunting task when things are well, so as you can imagine, it becomes a real burden when a loved one is sick and/or hospitalized. Providing meals allows the family to focus their energy on more important tasks. Please note that it is unnecessary to bring a fancy three course meal; a simple main dish is blessing enough.
4. Acts of Service – Think of practical things you can do that will lighten their load. We have had friends shovel the snow off our driveway in the winter, and mow our lawn in the summer. This may have seemed a small task for them, but it was a huge blessing for us. Once, while my husband was in the hospital, we even had a friend call to say she wanted to drop off a “few” things from the grocery store. When I got home this is what I found (and this picture doesn’t even show the food in the fridge and freezer).
5. Be the Initiator – Forgo the natural tendency to say, “If you need anything, let me know.” While well intended, this statement is not overly helpful. It is very hard to call someone and say, “Will you bring me a meal? Will you mow my grass? Will you watch my children? Etc…” Instead, offer a way you are able to help. Examples include specific dates you would like to drop off a meal, or days you are free to help with childcare.
6. Practical Gifts – Aside from the obvious cost of medical expenses, a hospitalization is not cheap. Typically it involves a lot of driving back and forth (and therefore multiple tanks of gas, particularly when a distance is involved). There are the costs of parking for days on end, meals for the non-hospitalized visiting family member(s), and in my husband’s hospital, there is a daily fee for the use of the room phone and TV. If you are in a position to do so, consider giving a practical gift such as snacks for the bedside, a card for the caregiver with $5 that says, “You’re next (hospital) meal is on me,” a gas gift card, and/or any other creative idea you can think up. Gifts do not need to be extravagant to say that you care.
7. Fun Gifts – Lying in bed (or sitting at the bedside) day after day can get quite boring. I was once really excited to receive a Taste of Home magazine and my husband has been given woodworking and home renovation magazines as well. Crossword puzzles are another example of fun gifts. One friend of ours often gives us crafts for our kids to do at home. This gives them something fun to do while their Daddy is hospitalized, and keeps them occupied for whoever is watching them. Consider this gift for your friends with children, and especially for children you know who are in the hospital.
8. Don’t forget – A hospitalization places a lot of stress on a family. At times it can feel like ones world is being turned upside down while everyone else keeps on living their normal “happy” life. While life cannot (and should not) stop because you have a friend who is sick, don’t forget about the hard time they are experiencing. Continue to encourage them, even when you don’t get a response. Remember, they have a lot on their plate, and are probably being inundated with phone calls and messages. Responding to each of those can be time consuming, but I can assure you from personal experience, your messages will be listened to, read, and appreciated.
I hope this post has been helpful in giving you tips on how to support people you know going through a hospitalization. My husband and I are so thankful for the friends and family in our lives that have, and continue to, stand beside us, support us, and encourage us during periods of illness. The support of people who care makes all the difference in the world.
Disclaimer: The opinions in this post are mine and may not be the same as those of others experiencing illness and/or hospitalizations.