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Visiting hospice patients: 5 tips for a good visit

Becky Riney

Many times people want to show their care and support but have questions about whether to visit, how long to stay, or what to say when visiting someone who is very ill. 

Here are a few suggestions:

1. Presence counts. People may not remember what you say but they remember that you cared enough to be there. Don’t feel you have to have answers or profound words. A caring presence can be a gift.

2. Don’t use clichés. Often people have the intention of saying comforting words but it comes across as minimizing the person’s situation. Don’t say “I know how you feel” or that you know they will be better soon. Just say you care. Be willing to listen if they want to talk.

3. Silence is okay. If a person doesn’t want to talk or is unable to talk, you can say, “I’ll sit with you for a little while.” It may give the family a break if you offer to sit with someone while they run an errand or eat a meal.

4. Keep visits brief. In most cases it is best not to stay too long or to have too many visitors at one time. A 10-15 minute visit may be enough to show you care. You might try to call first to make sure it is a good time. If someone doesn’t feel like a visit, don’t take it personally; respect their wishes.

5. Bring a little something. You may want to bring a greeting card or a picture or clipping or a flower. You might need to check before leaving food, unless you are bringing food just for the family.

People appreciate knowing you are thinking of them and that you care.

Becky Riney is a social worker at Alive Hospice Residence Nashville.

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