September 13, 2018
Have you ever walked in to the office or a get-together with friends or family and had a person say to you with great concern, “You really look tired today!” Although you may have been feeling relatively perky preceding that moment, suddenly you actually DO feel worn out and rundown. The words we use with each other in addition to the manner in which we interpret them are powerful. So when speaking with people who have acute health concerns, it’s very important to carefully think about what to say, and possibly even more important, what NOT to say, that can help the person feel his or her best.
While we’re genuinely well meaning, there are certain sentiments which can be better left unsaid. Making a less-than-sensitive remark, according to Mindy Beth Lipson, a Phoenix psychologist, happens because, “I think people are just scared and nervous and don’t know how to respond. There might be several reasons, the first being it brings up their own mortality. Some people also just lack empathy.”
- “My cousin had a similar diagnosis and was ill for many months.” Discussing negative accounts about an individual with a similar diagnosis is a surefire way to bring the person’s spirits down. Alternatively, keep in mind each individual experiences medical conditions in various ways, and focus on the positives the individual you’re speaking with has achieved.
- “If you’d only stopped smoking (or exercised; or followed a healthier eating plan; etc.) this wouldn’t have happened.” It’s nearly impossible to determine if the result could have been different if healthier choices were made, and there’s no benefit to playing “what if.” Focus your attention on providing the assistance and compassion the individual needs now, and leave any thoughts of judgment at the door.
- “Do you recall…?” Particular to individuals who have dementia or other cognitive impairment, memory prompts like this can add to the frustration and agitation already experienced. Discussing news from days gone by as if they’re new is a superb technique to engage the individual instead.
Your best bet would be to let the person have the opportunity to communicate (or not to share with you) about his or her health concerns and emotions, hold the person’s hand if it’s welcome, provide a bright bouquet of flowers or any other small gift or treat, and offer your affectionate, loving presence and encouragement.
To get more care tips, and for hands-on assistance with experienced care in the comfort of home, reach out to Continuum. We provide professional home health St. Louis, MO families depend on to bring comfort through companionship, assistance with meals and housework, transportation to medical appointments and procedures, running errands, and more. Call us at (314) 863-9912 or contact us online to let us find out how we are able to help.