There is no absolute guide when dealing with patients and/or family members of patients. The objective of this project is to provide very general guidelines to members of the Edison / Highland Park community. When in doubt on how to behave, or what to ask or say, it is advisable that you consult your local Rabbi.
In a hospital setting:
- Always check with the patient or the family before visiting.
- Always knock on the door before entering.
- Read all signs posted outside the room and put on any special coverings (mask or gloves) if required.
- When speaking to someone in the room with the patient present, always assume the patient can hear you.
- Come into the room with a pleasant face.
- Limit your time in the room (try to be aware of the patient’s needs).
- Always leave the room when doctors or nurses enter.
- Try not to stare at the patient’s monitors and tubes.
- Be sincere – do not give obviously flattering false “compliments”.
- Be an empathetic listener.
- Sit on the chair provided – never on the patient’s bed.
- Check with hospital staff to ensure certain gifts are appropriate (e.g. helium balloons, flowers, etc).
Things to say:
- “Can I get you something…..?” If they request food or water, you MUST first check with a nurse.
- “We’re concerned…” and/or “we’re thinking of you”.
- “We’re praying for you!” and “we know you are going through a very difficult period….”.
- If visiting a child, offer to play, read or to pray with the child.
- When visiting a friend in the hospital, be very specific with your offer – “I can be there at ______“ (specify time) and “I would like to bring something for you (spouse or parent) to eat, what can I bring?”
- Always assume that what is being told to you is confidential, unless told otherwise, especially if you overhear things in the hospital. Sometimes even very private people break down and say things that they would not want anyone else to hear. This extends to not telling spouses and other family members.
Do not ask or speak to patients or family members about:
- Details about illness
- Stories/anecdotes about people with a similar illness
- Do not ask about patient in front of other family members (especially children).
- Do not ask siblings about patient (especially if young children are involved).
- Do not give medical advice.
Specific services that can be offered to patients:
- Food shopping — be specific and say “I’m at Shop-Rite… what do you need” instead of “what can I do?”
- Offer to take the patient’s children home from school and arrange play-dates.
- Offer rides to doctor and/or hospital. DO NOT go into doctor’s office or hospital unless asked to do so.
- If you are offering rides to doctor’s office and/or hospital, be prepared to wait (know up front that there probably will be delays). Be specific when offering rides to hospital/doctor as to when you are available to drive.
- Volunteer to do the laundry – it would be even better to offer to bring and pick-up the laundry from a local Laundromat.
- Offer to take the patient’s children to appointments.
- When going on a family outing on Sundays or out to lunch or dinner, offer to take the patient’s children with you.
- Offer to baby-sit (or be on call in the middle of the night) so the family can be in the hospital with the patient.
- When going shopping for school or camp supplies, offer to take the patient’s children with you. You can even offer to help pack them up for camp!
- During the winter months, find a teenager to shovel snow at the patient’s home for “Chesed hours”.