If there ever was a situation that screamed for the use of common sense, it is the practice of visiting the sick. Imbedded in many of the world’s religions is a command to feed the hungry and visit the sick. Even when not religiously motivated, it is the desire of many people to make life better for others.

Feeding the poor is a fairly straight-forward maneuver because you can always leave a cake or a casserole outside the door and people are almost always hungry, but visiting the sick often finds you involved in a delicate situation.

Unfortunately, what begins with good intentions does not always turn out that way. There is no better way to show concern for your fellow man than to visit him when he is sick; however, visiting at the wrong time (or under the wrong circumstances) can have the opposite result.

A common sense approach is called for. First, how sick is the patient and what is the nature of his illness?

A person may be in a hospital with a broken leg or be there dying of cancer and there is a world of difference, something to be taken into consideration.

Visiting the sick does not mean that you must physically visit. Most hospitals have visiting hours, some more rigid than others.

If flowers are appropriate (and you should be sure this is the case), this is a visit. As with most other items in our economy, the cost of flowers is something to be considered.

Most hospitals have rigid visiting rules and if the patient is in Intensive Care or some other restrictive unit, flowers may be prohibited. Check this out before you send any flowers.

Flowers does not necessarily mean cut flowers. If the patient is a close friend who is into gardening, consider some bulbs that can be planted when the patient is well and home or a small shrub, such as an azalea or miniature gardenia.

A telephone call is considered a visit and at times will be much more appropriate than a physical visit.

Remember, if you are sick enough to be in a hospital, you are probably too sick to entertain.

There is nothing more comforting than to look up from a hospital bed and see a friendly, familiar face.

On the other hand, there is not much more disturbing than to see a stranger, especially when you have no makeup on and your hair hasn’t been fixed. Whether you realize it or not, you will be acting as the host and will feel it is your duty to make conversation, etc., with this person whom you have never seen before in your life. This is not an appropriate visit.

Send a cheerful card as a substitute for a physical visit. Make a note inside the card that you are looking forward to seeing them when they get home and ask if you can do anything for them while they are hospitalized.

If patients do not want visitors, they should tell their doctor or the head nurse to give that order.

Rest is crucial for healing and becoming upset over unwanted attention is not the way to go.

Remember, just because a patient has been released from the hospital and has come home does not mean that the patient is no longer sick. Even more care should be exercised in visiting when the patient has just come home.

Answer these questions: Will she be upset for you to see the condition of her home, which at this time may not be in the normal condition? Will he be feeling strong enough to “entertain” you? Will he feel better after the visit than he did before you got there? This is the most important question of all.


Bita Bullet is the pen name of a local anonymous writer who can be reached at opelikaobserver@att.net