How to Comfort the Terminally Ill: A Patient's Perspective
Visiting Someone Who Is Terminally Ill Can Be Intimidating
I know this from personal experience. I had a brain tumor and spent over half a year in and out of the ICU.
I was always very aware that although my friends and family wanted to visit, many of them weren't sure how to comfort me. At the hospital (or at home if doing hospice care) the person you are visiting is often connected to lots of wires, monitors, alarms, and medications—and there might even be a lot of other healthcare workers coming in and out to run tests and perform other tasks. It can make visiting awkward and uncomfortable.
Some people even have a phobia of hospitals. After my first cranial surgery, I had a tube coming out of my head to drain my excess cerebrospinal fluid. Every few hours the nurse would have to come in, remove the full bag of cerebrospinal fluid, and replace it with an empty one. For a while, knowing there was a tube coming out of my head that was connected to a bag on a hanger bothered me. I was afraid I'd turn the wrong way and rip the tube out, or something. But I eventually got used to it. I'm not sure all my visitors did, though. There were several family members that were very hesitant to visit because "medical stuff" bothered them.
You're not visiting the illness.
You're going to visit the same person you've always known.
What to Write in a Card for the Terminally Ill
Card Sentiments for the Terminally Ill
Here are some good sentiments to use in cards for the terminally ill.
"Thinking of you."
"God bless you and keep you in his care."
"You mean so much to me."
"Hope you are feeling better today."
"You are in my prayers."
"May your day be filled with tranquil moments."
"Sending positive thoughts your way."
"You are surrounded by caring thoughts and heartfelt prayers."
"Hoping you find joy today."
"Love and comfort."
"Just a simple wish that this day will bring you happiness."
"May today be a blessing."
"Hoping you find blessings in everything."
"Remember that you are a blessing."
"Warm wishes and hugs."
"Wishing you peace."
"May His love and compassion bring you peace."
Greeting Cards for the Terminally Ill
Get Freakin' Well
My favorite greeting card was a hand drawn comic of an old guy in a wife beater shirt that me and a friend had been "updating" and resending to each other for several years. Sometimes it was a "Happy Frreakin' Birthday" card and other times a "Merry Freakin' Christmas" card... But when my friend put a head bandage with a care bear on the old geezer's head and hand wrote "Get Freakin' Well" he absolutely topped the cake. It wasn't that my friend knew what I was going through, or how to empower me to undergo another surgery... Just that he had taken the time to make me laugh at myself (and yes, I did happen to have a huge bandage on my head at the time).
Bake something for the nursing staff!
A great way to give a gift to a patient is to bring baked good for the nursing staff. It gives them a reason to check in a few extra times and chit-chat which can bring up anyone's spirits.
Audiobooks for Terminally Ill
Audiobooks make excellent gifts for the terminally ill. Whether due to medication, or other physical limitations, a patient may not have the ability or stamina to read. An audio book gives them the chance to listen and relax.
Show up with your favorite book.
Spend an hour reading your favorite book. Great gift for someone that just needs comfort.
Bringing a Gift
Just because you don't know exactly what to say doesn't mean you shouldn't say (or send) anything at all.
A simple gift with a sense of humor or personal touch goes a long way. Or find out if the person you know has any limitations in their daily life that they may not be used to. Because of the incisions in my head, I went several months without being able to wash my hair, and a friend of mine went out of her way to find out if I could use "waterless shampoo." Her thoughtfulness is always remembered.
Check the hospital gift shop!
They are always filled with an eclectic mix of seasonal and get-well gifts that may just do the trick.
My aunt bought a blank journal and left it in my hospital room while unconcious. My visitors, and the nursing staff all took time to write in it. It's a wonderful keepsake now.