Chronic Disease patients: send these Dos and Don'ts to your visitors when you are admitted

When I was diagnosed with Kidney Failure in 1997 at the age of 21, it came as a huge shock to my family. People who knew us were also shocked. A handsome, young, 21-year old lad, about to go to the US for his Master's, Gold Medallist no less, getting diagnosed with Kidney Failure? What was the world coming to?

I was admitted for weeks as the doctors tried to do something about it. A line of visitors ensued. My parents were popular folks and had a wide circle of friends. Most of them visited. Some, out of genuine concern. Others, out of the worry that my parents would feel bad if they didn't. Honestly, they wouldn't. Just for the record.

Over the years, I have come up with some Dos and Don'ts for visitors to the hospital when someone with a chronic condition is admitted. While traditional Dos and Don'ts are separated into two different lists, I have clubbed them into one.

- It is not necessary to take something with you. Some people brings fruits. Dialysis patients cannot eat fruit. Some bring coconut water. Poison for us. If you must bring something, try a book (after finding out the genre the patient likes) or magazines. Or flowers. Provided, the patient is not allergic. Safest option - bring nothing. A smile will do, thank you.

- Don't sympathise. "You must be feeling so bad." or "This must be paining so much." Doesn't help at all. I know how bad I am feeling and how much it is paining. Don't have to remind me.

- Don't talk about alternate therapies. Yes, your neighbour's ex-wife's ex-husband's second cousin may have been cured by this or that alternate medicine. I am fine, thank you.

- Don't stay for too long. I am at the hospital to rest. Your presence provides me some diversion of mind at best. A change of scene. Don't overstay your welcome. Leave in 8-10 minutes unless I ask you to stay longer.

- Don't preach to me to pray or do this ritual or that. I am comfortable with my spirituality. I know what to do and I must already be doing it. So stop imposing your religiosity on me. I don't like it. I don't want to say No to things like these. It's against our culture. So you're embarrassing me or worse, stressing me out.

- Make small talk. Talk about the cricket match. About a recent movie you saw. I want to get my mind away from the disease. So if you must help, help with that. Not "What did the doctor say?"

Which brings me to my favourite: 

- Don't ask, "What did the doctor say?" Mostly, I don't like what the doctor said. And now, if you make me repeat what he said to every one of the visitors who come, it is worse than my disease, to be honest. So, don't act like you are worried about what the doctor said. You are unlikely to add any value by finding out.

Ok, I have been a little harsh above. I really appreciate you taking the time to visit. Kaun karta hai aaj kal? But seriously, I am assuming you have come to make me feel better. So, follow these guidelines to really make me feel better. Don't do things that irritate me. I hope you understand.


Kamal said…
OMG - most think otherwise and that we includes me. I see the concern from visitors turn out in those points without realizing the very fact that patient is not in that frame of mind to read ‘The Concern’. A great lesson for all the people like me who just want talk and talk to fill the silence.

Anonymous said…
Succintly put, a bit harsh but this is etiquette education at best.

Another thing is calls from NRIs calling at random hours and if there is only one attender, then they are stressed out and completely exhausted after the end of the day.

This maybe slightly tangential but I have noticed with Doctors in India vs New Zealand/Belgium - Outside, they generally tend to speak directly with the patient and update them on what the issue is and the different treatment options available. In India it is the parents or the attender/spouse who gets this information first.