- Check in as often as you can, in whatever ways you can. It helps the sick person feel connected and less invisible. It can get pretty lonely after the initial flush of concern and compassion is over.
- Please, please don't ever say anything along the lines of "Aren't you better yet?" or "Are you still sick?"
- Personally (and I'm not alone; here too), I don't like the use of fight and battle and war as metaphors for coping with illness, particularly cancer. If you "lose the fight," is it because you were a weak or poor fighter? If you die of breast cancer, were you not a "she-ro?" It's too violent, live or die, right or wrong, good or bad for me. But I know the concept works for many.
- You can't make the sick person better, but you can make them feel better. The former can leave you feeling pretty helpless and hopeless, but the latter is its own kind of cure.
- And don't forget the caregiver . . . .
But I would add some do's and don'ts for the patient as well:
- Most people do the best they can. Many aren't very comfortable around sick people and aren't sure what to say and do. They also have busy lives and lose track of time. It doesn't mean they don't care. If you are able, meet them halfway and reach out to them instead of wallowing in isolation.
- Have specific requests if they say (though they are advised not to), "just let me know if there is anything I can do." It does get easier to ask after the first time.
- I liked one commenter's suggestion to establish a point person who can provide information and answer questions, especially for people with extended or complicated illnesses like cancer. It doesn't have to be something formal like carecalendar.org (though that is great for meals; see my post on organizing meals here); just a person who knows. That way, people shy of invading your space or interrupting at an inopportune time can find out what's going on and learn better what they can do.
- And don't forget your caregiver . . . .
More suggestions for being a sick friend here.
While we'll all need these at some point, may you not need them now.