Whether it’s you or your spouse, one another’s parents, a family member or your own child, sooner or later you will have to make a trip to the hospital. And even though—when that day comes—you will be focused on what’s going on with your loved one, there are still some courtesies that everyone would appreciate you take into consideration. The following are some tips for those of you that are planning to visit your spouse, a friend or family member in the hospital.
1. Observe the “No Visitors” sign. For many different reasons a patient may not want visitors at his or her hospital bedside. It’s not considerate to sneak past the nurse’s station and pay an unwanted visit to an ailing friend or family member against their wishes.
2. Flowers are not universally appreciated. While flowers are the most popular choice, it would be nice to know in advance if the person receiving the bouquet is allergic to blooms. Some good alternatives include magazines, a warm shawl or sweater, furry socks or a nice box of stationary and pen.
3. Don’t overstay your welcome. If the person in the hospital bed keeps falling asleep in the middle of your stories, you have stayed too long. Kindly show yourself out and let them get the rest they need.
4. Leave the diagnosis to the doctor. Don’t ask the patient (your friend or family member) for a detailed description of the illness and then start to give your own opinion of what the doctor should be doing differently. Remember, the doctor has a medical degree and your friend or family member studied a completely different occupation.
5. Just because the patients’ eyes are closed doesn’t mean he can’t hear you. Saying things like, “He looks terrible!” or “Wait for the next operation, it gets worse!” are not appropriate sentiments to be expressing around an ailing patient.
6. No horror stories. A friend of mine—currently going through chemotherapy—told me that her best friend, when hearing of her diagnosis, unthinkingly remarked, “She might just drop dead on her first round of chemo.” Not comforting!
7. Don’t wear perfume. A strong scent can be nauseating and extremely uncomfortable to the patient’s sense of smell. Instead, refrain from using perfume before you enter the hospital and apply it instead when you leave.
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Diane Gottsman, a nationally recognized etiquette expert, is the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, a company specializing in etiquette training for corporations, universities and individuals, striving to polish their interpersonal skills. You can reach Diane at 877-490-1077 or www.protocolschooloftexas.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @: www.twitter.com/DianeGottsman.