3 Things NOT to Say to Someone Experiencing a Health Crisis

Mid adult woman embraces her senior mom
Learn what commonly used sentiments are better left unsaid when a loved one is facing a health crisis.

Have you ever walked in to the office or a get-together with friends or family and had a person say to you with great concern, “You really look tired today!” Even though you may have been feeling relatively perky before that instance, unexpectedly you actually DO feel tired and rundown. The words we speak to one another and also the ways in which we interpret them are meaningful. So, when speaking with people who have an acute health condition, it is essential that you carefully consider what to express, and perhaps more importantly, what NOT to say to a loved one in crisis.

While we are most certainly well meaning, there are specific sentiments which are better left unsaid. Making a less-than-sensitive remark, according to Mindy Beth Lipson, a Phoenix psychologist, occurs because, “I think people are just scared and nervous and don’t know how to respond. There might be several reasons, the first being it brings up their own mortality. Some people also just lack empathy.”

Following are several statements to remove from your vernacular when speaking with individuals faced with a health crisis:

  1. “My brother had the same medical diagnosis and was ill for months.” Discussing negative stories about an individual with the same diagnosis is a surefire way to bring the person’s spirits down. As an alternative, keep in mind each individual experiences health problems differently, and focus on the positives the individual you’re talking with has achieved.
  2. “If you’d only stopped smoking (or exercised; or followed a healthy diet plan; etc.) this couldn’t have happened.” It is impossible to know whether the result could have been different if healthier options had been made, and there’s no benefit to playing “what if.” Concentrate instead on giving the assistance and empathy the individual needs today, and leave any feelings of judgment at the door.
  3. “Do you recall...?” Specific to people who have dementia or other cognitive impairment, memory prompts like this can also add to the frustration and agitation already experienced. Discussing stories from days gone by as if they’re brand-new is a great solution to engage the person instead.

Your absolute best bet is always to allow the individual the opportunity to talk about (or not to share with you) his / her experience and emotions, hold the individual's hand if it is welcome, give a bright bouquet of flowers or other small present or treat, and just provide your warm, loving presence and support.

For further care tips, and for hands-on advice about skilled care within the comfort of home, reach out to Midnight Sun Home Care. We'll provide you with professional, caring services for those confronted with a health crisis that deliver comfort and peace, through companionship, assistance with daily meals and household chores, transportation to healthcare appointments and procedures, running errands, and so much more. Call us at (907) 677-7890 or contact us online to let us explore how our Matanuska-Susitna, AK elder care givers are able to help.


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