This post about visiting someone who’s ill is from chapter 3 of my book, Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone who Has Cancer,
Here’s what Jesus had to say about it:
“Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.” Matthew 25: 34b-361 (New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson)
Why Visiting someone who’s ill is so important
When someone is ill, especially with cancer, it is easy for them to become isolated and withdrawn. Because they lack energy and are often immune suppressed and/or in pain, they often stay home far more than they used to. That coupled with often insensitive reactions to their illness can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression. This can be even more intensified around the holidays.
Visiting someone who’s ill or their caregiver can make a big impact on the family’s quality of life. It can also help you to see for yourself if there is something more the family needs.
*Anna: A Friend with Multiple Sclerosis
My husband had gone to a breakfast for the men at our church. A man named *George sat next to him. His wife, Anna had Multiple Sclerosis and he’d been trying to get someone from the women’s ministry to go to the nursing home and read the Bible to her on occasion. No one would.
When Dan came home and told me this, I decided that I would visit her weekly. I wasn’t prepared for the experience of visiting someone who’s ill.
My First Visit with Anna
I walked into her room and saw a beautiful woman, much younger than I had expected, and far more affected by her illness than I’d anticipated. I held it together as I introduced myself to her and then read to her.
After an hour I left and drove right to our church, crying the whole way. We had a pastor who specialized in visiting the homebound. I rushed up to the pastor, crying, and said that I wanted to visit Anna, but I didn’t think I was cut out for it.
He told me that it wouldn’t be as difficult to visit Anna in the future because I would never be as unprepared as I’d been that day. He encouraged me to learn about Multiple Sclerosis in order to better understand what she felt. That would raise my level of empathy while lowering any anxiety I felt about her condition.
Would I Visit Her Again?
The pastor asked me, “When are you going to be visiting Anna again?”
I wanted to say, “Never.” But, I’d made a commitment, and I needed to live up to it. “Every Tuesday at 10:30 in the morning.”
“I’ll write that down on my calendar, and each Tuesday while you visit with her, I’ll be praying for you and for her.” This was a good reminder to me to pray before our visits as well.
From then on, I would spend the entire drive to the care center, praying for Anna. I also asked for God to use me to bless her during our time together.
Over the course of the next 2 years, I came to know Anna well. I especially loved her sense of humor. Over those two years, a treasured friendship grew between us.
Once in a while, Anna would have a bad day, and it was difficult to see her hurting, but I took solace in the fact that when I was there, she didn’t have to hurt alone.
- When visiting someone who’s ill, remember the cardinal rule: Ask permission.
- Schedule visits at times other than weekends or holidays when others may visit. Before my first visit with Anna, her husband and I decided on a day and time that would accommodate my schedule, family members’ visits, and the care center’s schedule.
- Always call or text before your scheduled visit, to make sure that your friend is still feeling up for company. Be understanding if your friend can’t see you at that time. Again, make it clear that saying no is perfectly fine.
- Assure him/her that if they need to reschedule, it’s okay.
- Set a time limit for visits and phone calls before you begin. That way, you won’t wear your friend out. When in doubt, stick to 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes can really brighten the day of a cancer patient.
- Most cancer treatments cause fatigue. Concentrating on a conversation for an extended period of time can be difficult for patients. Be sensitive to this and when possible, keep visits one on one.
*I’ve changed these names to protect privacy.
I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since my husband, Dan was diagnosed with
stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness.
My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.
My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com