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Top 10 Tips for Visiting Sick People

Posted on: July 29th, 2014 by bubbyjoysandoys 2 Comments

Enjoyed this? Share it, and attribute it. Copyright 2014, Bubby Joys and Oys, M. Hendeles

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Visiting the sick is an art, not a science. In Hebrew, we call this act of performing any kindness to family of sick people– bikur cholim.  Recently, I have been laid up in bed for many months, due to a broken ankle, and I have been the recipient of this mitzvah (good deed) by so many people in our community. People have been generous beyond my wildest imagination. Although I performed bikur cholim before I broke my ankle, I don’t think I did so with such skill and grace as those who performed the mitzvah for me. And so, I’ve compiled a list of 10 “best practices” for mastering the art of bikur cholim based on my experiences as a recipient. Just as one must master certain skills in order to produce a true work of art, so too one must master certain practices in order to fulfill the mitzvah of bikur cholim in its highest form.

In creating this Top Ten Tip List, I am speaking to myself as much as to the reader:

  1. Call, text or email the sick person before visiting to ask when is a good time to visit; it’s not a good idea to pop in without prior mention.

  2. When others are also present, refrain from side conversations without involving the person who is sick.

  3. Unless the sick person asks, do not talk about yourself or your own life; rather, talk about something you know is of interest to the sick person.

  4. Your presence is what is most valued by the sick person, even more than cards or flowers.

  5. Ask open ended questions (i.e., “How are you feeling today?”) to encourage the person to talk if they are in the mood; do not ask details about their illness.

  6. Speak using empathy and compassion; avoid speaking platitudes.

  7. If you are running errands such as going to the market, it’s nice to call and offer to pick up something; you can keep a running tab on how much you’ve spent so the patient can pay you back.

  8. Ask first before sending over food; coordination (regarding time and food sent) is important to not cause undue stress for the patient. If they tell you they are fine with whatever you send, then go with their wish.

  9. A brief friendly phone call is always appreciated; most important is to listen to what the person has to say and help the patient feel validated. You can offer to relieve a young mom of the kids for a few hours, by taking them to the park.

  10. If you say you will do something, follow through with it; if something comes up, let the person know because they are likely relying on you to fulfill your word.

After all is said and done, we strive to do our best when it comes to any mitzvah, especially visiting the sick. And if we aim to do bikur cholim artfully and purposefully, then G-d will help us achieve our goals. May all the sick and injured be cured by the ultimate Doctor, and may there be no more need for bikur cholim.

Photo credit: M. Hendeles


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2 Responses

  1. Chavi says:

    Well I see that I already broke Rule #1 – And I’m not sure I agree with Rule #3. And just by my previous 2 lines, I see that I’m probably not great with Rule #6!!! Hope you’ll still be my friend!!

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