Be careful when you visit!!! Every patient's diagnosis and situation is different, so one cannot assume that however you responded to an earlier patient, it would be similiar now. If the patient is in a health care setting, don't rush right over and demand to see them. Believe me, it does happen! If you insist on going to the hospital, check first at the nursing station to see if visitors are allowed....if not, then don't persist and "please" respect the patient's or family's request if they desire "No Visitors". Maybe the patient needs complete rest, and your entrance and vocal chit-chat will only cause disruption. Maybe the patient does not wish to see anyone except the immediate family at this time, so you should be mindfull of this, and abide by their wishes. If however, visitors are allowed, then respect the hospital's visiting hours. Don't overextend them just because you were late arriving. Patients are usually on a rigid schedule and getting plenty of rest is high priority. Don't stay there for extended periods of time unless specifically asked. This will only increase stress levels for everyone!
Don't visit someone whom you have not seen for many months, just because you've heard they may be dying.......... Oh, and please don't go see the patient just on speculation, visit because you truly care. If the patient is at home, ensure to ask the family whether visiting would be appropriate. I know people usually mean well, but just take the time and think out your actions first to ensure you are not intruding. Patients, caregivers and their immediate families are already under enormous stress at this time, and believe me, any of the above only makes the situation worse as well as cause additional stress to the patient. If however the patient does not need to rest and wants to see visitors, by all means go ahead and spend that quality time. Having people around them, might just be the best medicine in many cases, so as I said earlier, every situation is different.
Leave your camera at home....please!!! If you were diagnosed with a serious illness, would you enjoy having people take your picture? Just take a moment and think about that. I know, everytime someone would press that shudder, I'd shutter in a much different way. At the end of the day it only adds more stress to the patient, knowing that those pictures might possibly be the final shot. People mean well, but just don't take the time to step back and think it all out. If you missed that photograph with your favorite person, now is not the time to have that photo memory. Patients usually look ill and have lost considerable weight and this is not the time for that photo opt. I trust everyone can respect what I am saying. Sometimes you have to be in that situation to understand.
Don't pry......please!!! Most people are fine and will never ask anything personal, but sometimes it does happen. This is not the time to ask personal questions....heck, it's never the time, unless the questions relate to you directly. Never ask patients or families personal questions about whether they have their will completed, if they have life insurance and if so, how much and other invasive inquiries. Would you appreciate the same invasion into your private lives?
Don't talk about cancer, unless the patients wants to.......now is the time to be a good listener. Try to be very normal in your conversations and not focus mainly on the patient's cancer diagnosis. If they wish to bring up the subject, then it's ok to discuss it, but if not, then respect their desire not to talk about it. Keep the conversation as normal as possible and be yourself.
For the most part, people really do want to help, but sometimes don't take the time to think of their actions...