Families and friends are an integral part of caring for the seriously ill. It is important to continue clear communication. You will want to find creative ways to maintain your relationship as changes in condition occur. Recognize that you need to take care of yourself also.

The following are some helpful hints:

Touch – touching is one of the most comforting modes of communication. A squeeze of the hand or a warm embrace eloquently testifies to how much you truly care.

Smile and laugh – continue to enjoy humorous incidents and stories. Illness does not ban laughter.

Be comfortable with silence – love understands love, it needs no words. Silence can be as supportive as conversation.

Offer truth – when a patient may be doing poorly, don’t deny this. Everyone, sickly or healthy, should be treated with dignity and not deceit.

Accept limitations – you cannot provide all the answers and solve all the problems. Listen and hear what is said. There may be no complete solutions. Accept your limitations and commit yourself only to what you are able to do. Ask for help!

Accept the feelings of the sick person – don’t pretend that everything is okay. A seriously ill person needs to express his/her emotions. You can encourage them by saying “what are you feeling?” or “tell me what is happening to you.” Be sensitive to shifting feelings, whether they be sadness, rage, panic or frustration.

Share time together – talking, listening to music, watching television, playing cards or games can help fill lonely and frightening hours with shared companionship.

Offer to help – actions speak louder than words. Offer to help – “I’m going to the supermarket, can I pick up something for you?” “While the nurse is away, I’ll come over to the house and spend time.”

Coordinate supports – there may be many people and organizations who can offer invaluable assistance, such as family, friends, home health care, church, medical organizations, self-help groups. These vital people and groups can help to better manage the difficult moments.

Respect the privacy and integrity of the sick person – if possible, check before you visit. Never assume you know what the person’s needs may be at any given moment. Respect the patient’s confidentiality.

Remember, your continuing strength and good health are what allow you to be present. Take good care of yourself.