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 6 Things Never to Say to a Sick Friend + 4 Things... 
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Joined: Fri Aug 11, 2006 1:46 pm
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Location: SF Bay Area (Northern CA)
Post 6 Things Never to Say to a Sick Friend + 4 Things...
I ran across this article yesterday, and it certainly resonated. Many people with neurodegenerative disorders report that they dislike being told "you look great," particularly when most of the symptoms are non-motor ones. The article's author, who dealt with bone cancer, details 6 things you should never say to a friend or relative who's sick and 4 things you can always say...



http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/12/fashi ... -life.html
(access to the NYT is no longer free beyond a certain number of articles each month)


(Excerpts from)

June 10, 2011
New York Times

This Life
‘You Look Great’ and Other Lies
By Bruce Feiler

...So at the risk of offending some well-meaning people, here are Six Things You Should Never Say to a Friend (or Relative or Colleague) Who’s Sick. And Four Things You Can Always Say.

First, the Nevers.

1. WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP?

2. MY THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS ARE WITH YOU.

3. DID YOU TRY THAT MANGO COLONIC I RECOMMENDED?

4. EVERYTHING WILL BE O.K.

5. HOW ARE WE TODAY?

6. YOU LOOK GREAT.

So what do patients like to hear? Here are four suggestions.

1. DON’T WRITE ME BACK.

2. I SHOULD BE GOING NOW.

3. WOULD YOU LIKE SOME GOSSIP?

4. I LOVE YOU.


Bruce Feiler’s memoir, “The Council of Dads: A Story of Family, Friendship and Learning How to Live,” has just been published in paperback.


Sun Jun 12, 2011 7:48 pm
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Joined: Fri Jan 15, 2010 9:33 pm
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Location: Vermont
Post Re: 6 Things Never to Say to a Sick Friend + 4 Things...
I suppose some of those 6 things "never to say" made sense to the author, but personally, when I've been sick or recuperating from childbirth, I was always SO glad when a friend or relative said "What can I do to help?"
There was always something that I knew I couldn't do, and people were glad to help when I gave them suggestions. I can't imagine why anyone would be offended by having someone offer to help, but that's just me.

Re: ok things to say - I don't get the "don't write me back" and I don't agree with the "I should be going now." Maybe I've never been sick enough that I actually wanted my friends or family to leave. I was always happy to have the company and hated when people left!

I think the rest make some sense! It'll be interesting to see what others think. Lynn

_________________
Lynn, daughter of 89 year old dad dx with possiblity of LBD, CBD, PSP, FTD, ALS, Vascular Dementia, AD, etc., died Nov. 30, 2010 after living in ALF for 18 months.


Sun Jun 12, 2011 9:46 pm
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Location: SF Bay Area (Northern CA)
Post Re: 6 Things Never to Say to a Sick Friend + 4 Things...
If you read the article, I think the problem with "what can I do to help?" is made clear. It puts the burden on the sick person to come up with the idea for what can help.


Sun Jun 12, 2011 11:41 pm
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Location: Vermont
Post Re: 6 Things Never to Say to a Sick Friend + 4 Things...
Read the article, and like I said, I like it when people ask me what they can do to help. There's nothing like having someone "help" when it's "help" you don't want. I have always been able to suggest things that I KNOW I'd like help with - like "You can do a load of laundry while I take care of the baby/ pick up kids at school & get them to soccer/ do the grocery shopping and fix dinner...."
Maybe I've never been sick enough that thinking on my own was too taxing, luckily.

_________________
Lynn, daughter of 89 year old dad dx with possiblity of LBD, CBD, PSP, FTD, ALS, Vascular Dementia, AD, etc., died Nov. 30, 2010 after living in ALF for 18 months.


Mon Jun 13, 2011 7:21 am
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Joined: Fri Dec 31, 2010 3:07 pm
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Location: Minnesota
Post Re: 6 Things Never to Say to a Sick Friend + 4 Things...
I like both lists!

Some items make more sense when read in context. And some apply more fittingly to people with very serious illness than to casual, temporary conditions. But overall I think the world of illness would be a better place if visitors all read this article!

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Jeanne, 68 cared for husband Coy, 86. RBD for 30+ years; LDB since 2003, Coy at home, in early stage, until death in 2012


Mon Jun 13, 2011 9:46 am
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Post Re: 6 Things Never to Say to a Sick Friend + 4 Things...
I do use the 'mindless cliche' about 'thoughts and prayers' but, for me, it is neither mindless nor cliche. I really DO pray for them and they are on my mind throughout the day. But I agree it's overused and does sound like a canned response.

One that I utterly agree with is the 'mango colonic' suggestions. Yikes, it seems that most people have their pet miracle cures and believe that the person who is terminally ill would be totally cancer-free if only they used it.

Maybe the 'How can I help' could be revised to "Before I see you again, maybe you could think about some things you need that I could get/do for you that would make your life easier [actually, I'd be more inclined to ask the spouse/caregiver].

"I should be going now" might prevent an overlong and tiring visit but the caregiver/spouse might very well [depending on your relationship] want some company. He/she will probably let you know if he/she wants you to stay. Taking the spouse some favorite candy, wine or flowers is also a nice gesture. Obviously, offering to stay with the sick person so the caregiver can get out is almost always welcome. I have seen so many cases where the caregiving spouse is overwhelmed and exhausted by the demands of the illness, regardless of the diagnosis.

_________________
Pat [68] married to Derek [84] for 38 years; husband dx PDD/LBD 2005, probably began 2002 or earlier; late stage and in a SNF as of January 2011. Hospitalized 11/2/2013 and discharged to home Hospice. Passed away at home on 11/9/2013.


Mon Jun 13, 2011 12:10 pm
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Post Re: 6 Things Never to Say to a Sick Friend + 4 Things...
I think these "rules" are intended for casual friends. If this person is someone who knows the sick person well enough that the sick person feels comfortable saying, "Could you go to my house and run a few loads of laundry for me?" then the question "what can I do to help?" is appropriate. But if I'm in the hospital, very sick, and my boss makes a duty visit and says "what can I do to help?" that kind of puts me on the spot. I may very well not be up to thinking up tasks that would be appropriate to ask of her. (Actually, my boss wouldn't ask that. She is very creative in finding ways to help. Once she sent someone to my house with vouchers for several meals of take-out food from a near-by resturant.) And often the whole question of help is better addressed to the spouse or caregiver.

I have a friend who has specifically asked, on Caring Bridge, for people to pray for her recovery from cancer. Obviously everyone who is in fact praying for her should tell her that! And even if someone doesn't specifically ask for prayers, if you know their religious views, it may be comforting to hear "I've added your name to our Wednesday morning prayer breakfast list." But from casual friends who have never discussed religion with the sick person, it is really kind of an intrusive statement. I can't tell you the number of people who simply assume I share their religious beliefs and do not hesitate to tell me about God's plan for Coy. In my mind, even if "you are in my prayers" is sincere and not just a mindless cliche, it may not always be appropriate. Unless you know the person's religious views, it kind of falls into the "mango colonic" category! Just because the visitor thinks it works doesn't mean the sick person wants to hear about it.

Good discussion-starter. Thanks for sharing the article, Robin.

_________________
Jeanne, 68 cared for husband Coy, 86. RBD for 30+ years; LDB since 2003, Coy at home, in early stage, until death in 2012


Mon Jun 13, 2011 1:24 pm
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Post Re: 6 Things Never to Say to a Sick Friend + 4 Things...
Jeanne, I have to disagree with you about the prayer thing. First of all, in 'a sick friend', as the topic describes, some knowledge of his/her religious philosophy is implicit. Secondly, from my experience, even my mother, who is a staunch atheist, appreciates my praying for her. She feels prayers are misplaced, of course, but she appreciates the sentiments that prompt them. I do respect your opinion, though, and I promise not to pray for you and Coy. ;-)

_________________
Pat [68] married to Derek [84] for 38 years; husband dx PDD/LBD 2005, probably began 2002 or earlier; late stage and in a SNF as of January 2011. Hospitalized 11/2/2013 and discharged to home Hospice. Passed away at home on 11/9/2013.


Mon Jun 13, 2011 4:09 pm
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Post Re: 6 Things Never to Say to a Sick Friend + 4 Things...
With all due respect, I don't think it is a safe assumption that an atheist or even an agnostic, let alone anyone else, would appreciate your praying for him/her, however well meaning, though of course if you know the person's position on the subject that is different. IMHO, it makes no more sense to assume that someone has religious/spiritual beliefs than it would to assume someone does not.

Having a brother who died unexpectedly last month, I have had lots of people tell me they are praying for my family and me. One even bought masses for him, and neither he nor any of my family is Catholic. Of course all of these people mean well, but most have no idea of my religious/spiritual orientation. I guess for some people it is just ingrained social behavior, like asking, "how are you?"

It seems that religion is very comforting to many who are ill, and their families. Just observe the comments people make to each other on the forum. I think Jeanne is correct, however, when she suggests such expressions are not universally appropriate or welcomed.

Julianne


Mon Jun 13, 2011 5:15 pm
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Joined: Tue Mar 29, 2011 3:02 pm
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Post Re: 6 Things Never to Say to a Sick Friend + 4 Things...
what a charged topic!

no winners here…

my belief…

anything said sincerely…okay
insincere….not so….no matter the intention…

if you don't mean it…don't say it…

but then….I have a sister…that since my diagnosis has avoided me…told my other sister so….she isn't ready yet? I would take anything from her right now….as insincere as she can make it….just anything…..

so, I guess it depends...

_________________
Craig - Patient - Male - 56 years old - Lewy Bodies diagnosed on March 23, 2011 - cognitive disorder NOS dx 2007 - RBD REM dx 2007 issues for 20+ years - intention tremor 1974 - other issues many years


Mon Jun 13, 2011 5:54 pm
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Joined: Fri Dec 31, 2010 3:07 pm
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Location: Minnesota
Post Re: 6 Things Never to Say to a Sick Friend + 4 Things...
Thank you, Julianne.

Plenty of my friends just assume I share their beliefs, because I look like them and don't wear different clothes or talk funny. :P Upon learning that I am not Christian one of my work friends was shocked. "But, but ..." she sputtered, "you're so nice!" Doncha love it? :lol:

Pat, most of the time I am able to live up to my goal of listening to intention instead of words. People who tell me they are praying for me mean well. I don't get offended. I just don't think it is appropriate behavior unless you know the person's spiritual views. I certainly do not know that about all the people I would visit or call or write to if I knew they were seriously ill.

I have one friend who takes personal credit for Coy's continued stability. Silly me, I thought it had to do with the treatment plan from Mayo Clinic, and his attitude, and genetics, and perhaps even my loving caregiving. Turns out the real cause is this friend's praying power. He told me, seriously, that many of the people he prays for do better than expected. Hmmm ... we still socialize with this couple. The guy has many sterling traits, but I sure don't know what to say when brings this subject up. Thank you? :lol:

My best girlfriend of more than 50 years and I have different views about praying. We can discuss it without trying to convince each other we are right or trying to convert each other. We just respect each other's views. So yes, with close friends I do know their spiritual views. But in the much wider circle of friends I care enough about to contact when sick, no, I very often would have no reason to know their spiritual views, just as I often don't know their political views, or whether they eat meat. It depends on the nature of the contacts we've had.

Pat, you are entitled to pray for anyone you want to. You don't have to sort recipients out by their beliefs unless you want to. We are not talking about friends' private lives here ... only about what it is appropriate to say to a seriously sick person.

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Jeanne, 68 cared for husband Coy, 86. RBD for 30+ years; LDB since 2003, Coy at home, in early stage, until death in 2012


Mon Jun 13, 2011 6:11 pm
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Post Re: 6 Things Never to Say to a Sick Friend + 4 Things...
Other than 2 or 3 of my friends, I don't really know even my closest friends' religious views (or lack thereof). It is simply a topic we don't discuss. I try to give support that doesn't have religious overtones, since I have no idea what most people's religious views are or aren't. When my dad died and a few people said "he's gone to a better place" to me, I simply said "thank you for your condolences. We are relieved that he is no longer suffering so terribly." End of conversation.
I can't imagine people giving strange alternative "medical advice" to a seriously ill person. That would definitely be on my "don't do this" list!!! Lynn

_________________
Lynn, daughter of 89 year old dad dx with possiblity of LBD, CBD, PSP, FTD, ALS, Vascular Dementia, AD, etc., died Nov. 30, 2010 after living in ALF for 18 months.


Mon Jun 13, 2011 8:16 pm
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Post Re: 6 Things Never to Say to a Sick Friend + 4 Things...
Lynn, do you mean to say that you have escaped advice from the alternate care outer fringes? Lucky you! These are people who sincerely believe what they are saying (so much so that some of them have invested in inventories and are willing to sell it to you). They are only trying to share what they consider the truth and what would be good for the patient. Just because they believe it works and I respect their right to believe that doesn't mean I want hear about it at a stressful time. Sort of like I feel about religious views. :lol:

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Jeanne, 68 cared for husband Coy, 86. RBD for 30+ years; LDB since 2003, Coy at home, in early stage, until death in 2012


Mon Jun 13, 2011 9:19 pm
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Post Re: 6 Things Never to Say to a Sick Friend + 4 Things...
I guess I have been lucky! The only fringe thing anyone ever has tried to push on me are those magnetic bracelets, necklaces, etc. (sorry if I've offended someone on the forum who believes in the healing power of magnets). One of my employees sold those as a side job and any time I had a sports injury or something, she'd tell me I should buy one of these pieces of jewelry instead of going to the chiropractor or physical therapist. She had a magnetic pad over her mattress, wore magnetic necklaces and bracelets, but interestingly, it did nothing for her drinking problem or her ability to call in sick more than anyone else in the dept. and have to be docked pay for going over her rather generous sick time!!! :lol:

_________________
Lynn, daughter of 89 year old dad dx with possiblity of LBD, CBD, PSP, FTD, ALS, Vascular Dementia, AD, etc., died Nov. 30, 2010 after living in ALF for 18 months.


Mon Jun 13, 2011 9:26 pm
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Post Re: 6 Things Never to Say to a Sick Friend + 4 Things...
I know someone who sells a vegetable capsule "supplement" product that she just insists will cure my mother's dementia. It was very difficult to get her to stop bringing it up every time we spoke. Actually, she thought the whole family should take it but it was particularly difficult to listen to her insist that it would cure dementia.

Julianne


Tue Jun 14, 2011 9:09 am
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