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By Callie Gordon, Lillie-Beth Brinkman, Helen Ford Wallace
QUESTION: My close friend is in the hospital and will have surgery soon. Do you have any ideas how I might help her? Should I visit every day? Is there hospital etiquette that I should know about?
CALLIE’S ANSWER: Ask her how she feels about coming to see her, bringing food or having flowers delivered.
I know some people are exhausted after surgery and would just like to sleep or spend time with their family. If you go, don’t overstay your welcome. My mom always told me, “never come empty-handed.” That being said, everyone loves anything homemade! I hope your friend gets well soon!
LILLLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: Any effort that you make will be appreciated and let your friend know you care, whether you write a note or bring by a meal after returning home.
Reassure the person that he or she is missed. Do you know any family members well enough to call them about what you can do or when you can visit?
Those who are helping manage your friend’s hospital care are a good place to start.
If bringing treats isn’t an option, you could bring magazines and books for the friend to read in the hospital for an extended stay or recovery afterward. Flowers are a nice, cheerful way to brighten up a dreary hospital room, although some hospitals and patients may discourage them because they’re hard to pack up and take home, so ask first if possible. When you visit, don’t overstay your welcome — it’s often hard to talk as doctors and nurses are coming by to check on their patient.
While I love visitors, others might not be so welcoming as people need all their mental and physical strength to get through surgery. Don’t take it personally if your friend asks you to stay home.
HELEN’S ANSWER: Since your friend is in the hospital, chances are she needs lots of rest and recovery and you probably don’t need to immediately go to visit.
You can help your friend by just letting her know that you care. Send a card. Drop off a box of candy or a book or magazine or send flowers.
If you decide to visit, It is a good idea to call ahead to ask if the visiting time is convenient, since sometimes there are tests or physical therapy going on during a hospital stay. She might not feel like having company, but, you can ask her when you call.
Observe hospital visiting hours.
You might offer to run errands for her after she returns home or take over some cookies or dinner. Anything will be appreciated.
GUEST’S ANSWER: Mary Hicks McReynolds, book author: Depending on the surgery, many people do not want company right away but need to rest and process what has happened to them.
They may be in pain and they often don’t look their best.
Before her surgery, offer to run errands or cook something for her when she returns home.
If you do go see her post-op, remember to observe visiting hours and don’t stay too long. Five to ten minutes, tops. Be upbeat and positive. Avoid bad news.
By all means, take flowers or her favorite sweets. Send emails and texts to let her know she is in your thoughts and prayers.
Callie Gordon is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus.