Sister Ruth
Sister Ruth
Every year on Feb. 11 Catholic healthcare marks the World Day of the Sick. Established in 1992, this year's theme is faith and charity - "We too must give our lives for the brethren." This day offers us an opportunity to recommit ourselves to compassionate care for the sick, to pray for the sick, and to recognize and honor all who work or extend themselves in reaching out in service.

One simple way that many can share in this ministry is to visit the sick. I have been the caregiver and also the patient. Over the years, many patients and caregivers have provided to me tips on visiting.

1. Call first if possible. Sometimes a patient has had too many visitors, has gone through painful treatments or just needs rest. If the person is sick at home, knowing when you are coming may give the caregiver a chance to run errands.

2. Wash your hands. Do this before and after a visit. It's the right thing for you and your friend as it helps decrease infections.

3. Knock before entering a room, whether it is at home or in the hospital. This respects privacy and gives the person a sense of control by calling their name, giving yours, and asking if it is OK to come in.

4. Try to restrict your conversation to topics that will make your friend feel better. A sense of humor can often put things in perspective.

5. Have a normal conversation. The most important rule is this: remember it's not about you. Many times just being with the person in silence is support.

6. Be willing to listen. Ask a general question and if the person wants to share about the illness they will.

7. Keep the visit short - 10 to 15 minutes is long enough.

8. Help the helper by doing errands for the caregiver.

9. Offer to pray. Ask, "Would you like me to pray? Is there something you would like me to pray about?"

10. Don't forget your friend once they are home. These days, most are still recovering after going home.

To close, the Scripture, "I was sick and you cared for me," brings to mind many of our area ministers who extend themselves to their members. Many thanks for your devotion, example and ministry: it has been a blessing for me to see your commitment.

Sister M. Ruth Luthman, OSF, is Director of Mission Integration, Franciscan St. Elizabeth Health - Crawfordsville.