• Realize that even if the person doesn’t “look too bad,” he
may feel lousy, or sometimes the reverse. So it might be
wise not to comment on the person’s appearance.
• You don’t have to say a lot or ask lots of questions. Just let
the person and the caregiver know that you care and are
praying for them.
• Don’t press for a lot of personal details. Being asked over
and over again (e.g., “How is your bladder doing?”) is not
only embarrassing but can be rude and insensitive.
• If you ask routine, polite questions (such as “How are you
doing today?” “How are you feeling?”), realize that you may
be acting politely, but that’s all—just polite but not very helpful. You are probably also encouraging the person to be polite
in return and answer, “Just fine,” when they really aren’t.
• Send a note of encouragement during the week; it means a
lot. You don’t have to buy an expensive card; a simple card
is just fine. And an e-mail is fine as well (but don’t send
“forwards” to cheer the person). The point is not how much
you paid for the card, but letting that person know that you
care enough to say so.
• Taking a meal can be helpful. But avoid two things: Tak-
ing too much food, especially if others are also bringing in
meals (wasted food is not helpful). And taking too much
of the wrong thing, like foods the person or family doesn’t
like. There may be medical restrictions, so be sure to ask
first and check preferences.
• Don’t expect the caregiver to come up with a list of things
you can do for the patient. Families appreciate that folks care
and want to help. There are things that need doing, but to
come up with a list for others is more overwhelming at times
than just letting those things go undone. The patient’s health
is the focus at this point, and it’s not easy to think beyond
that to come up with things to keep other people busy.
• Consider the person’s need for a bit of privacy.
• Consider whether the person needs company or alone time.
With doctor visits and hospice nurses, family, and friends
coming throughout the day, at times it would be nice just
to have a few minutes alone. Some people thrive on having
others around, while others enjoy solitude.
• Remember that patients with a terminal condition tend to
tire easily (as do caregivers).
• Don’t be offended when your offer to visit is turned down.
You are still loved and missed as a part of a dear church
family with whom the patient and the caretaker would like
Rodney J. Decker ( ThD, Central Baptist Theological Seminary) was
professor of Greek and New Testament at Baptist Bible Seminary. He was
married to Linda for 39 years.
God is not a cosmic vending machine
waiting for us to put in the right change.
Instead we trust the good, sovereign
Creator of the universe to do what He
Think you can’t give?
NOW THERE ARE 15+ WAYS TO GIVE.