Advice and Tips


25 Practical Tips You Can Use

When someone we know faces a serious illness, most of us find it hard to know what to do. Feeling helpless and uncertain, we say, “If you need anything, just call,” but we know that’s not really enough.

Here’s a list of truly useful ideas to show your concern and support for people experiencing a serious illness:

  1. Don’t avoid me.
    Be the friend, the loved one you’ve always been.
  2. Touch me.
    A simple squeeze of the hand tells me you still care.
  3. Call and tell me you’re bringing over my favorite dish.
    Bring food in disposable containers so I won’t worry about returning them.
  4. Watch my children…
    while I take a little time to be alone with my loved one. My children may also need a vacation from my illness.
  5. Cry with me when I cry and laugh with me when I laugh.
    Don’t be afraid to share these emotions with me. Pain isolates. Help me reconnect with others.
  6. Take me out for a pleasure trip…
    but know my limitations.
  7. Call for my shopping list…
    and make a special delivery to my home.
  8. Before you visit, call to let me know but …
    don’t be afraid to visit. I need you. I can get lonely.
  9. Help me celebrate holidays (and life)…
    by decorating my hospital room or home, or by bringing me flowers or other natural treasures.
  10. Help my family.
    Invite them out. Take them places. I am sick, but they may be suffering too. Offer to come and stay with me to give my loved ones a break.
  11. Be creative.
    Bring me a book of thoughts, taped music, a poster for my wall, or cookies to share with my family and friends.
  12. Let’s talk about it.
    Maybe I need to talk about my illness. Find out by asking, “Do you feel like talking about it?”
  1. Don’t always feel we have to talk.
    Sitting quietly together is fine. Your presence confirms that I am still important and alive.
  2. Can you take me and/or my children somewhere?
    I may need transportation to a treatment, to the store, or to my physician.
  3. Help me feel good about myself.
  4. Please include me in decision making.
    I’ve been robbed of so many things. Please don’t deny me a chance to make decisions about my family and my life.
  5. Talk to me about the future.
    Tomorrow, next week, next year. Hope is so important to me.
  6. Bring a positive attitude.
    It’s catching.
  7. What’s the news?
    Magazines, photos, newspapers and verbal reports keep me from feeling like the world is passing me by.
  8. Could you help me with some chores?
    During my illness, my family and I still face dirty clothes, dirty dishes and a dirty house.
  9. Please water my flowers.
  10. Send a card to let me know you care.
  11. Pray for me and share your faith with me.
  12. Tell me how you’d like to help me.
    And when I agree, please do so.
  13. Tell me about support groups…
    so I can share with others.


Talking to Your Doctors

Do not wait until a crisis occurs before discussing concerns about end-of-life treatments with your doctor. Chances are that he or she is waiting for you to start the conversation.

When you discuss your concerns and choices with your doctor, it is important to:

  • Let your doctor know if you have an advance directive.
  • Make sure you get a clear explanation from your doctor about treatments and procedures that may seem confusing before you complete your advance directive.
  • Make sure your doctor knows what is important to you.
  • Determine whether your doctor will follow your advance directive. The law does not force physicians to follow advance directives if they disagree with your wishes for moral or ethical reasons.
  • Talk to your doctor about the possible physical impacts of grief.
  • Give your doctor a copy of your completed advance directive. Make sure your doctor knows the name and telephone number of your appointed health care agent.
  • Assure your doctor that your family and your appointed health care agent know your wishes.
  • Caregivers should ask the doctor about providing physical caregiving to the loved one who is ill.
  • Find out from your doctor what to expect with regard to pain and what your pain management options may be.
  • One final point: reassess your decisions over time. They might change as circumstances in your life change.

Ask Your Doctor…

  • Will you talk openly and candidly with me and my family about my illness?
  • What decisions will my family and I have to make, and what information will you give to help us make these decisions?
  • Will you go to bat for me with my insurance provider or health plan if you believe that their decisions are not in my best interest?
  • What will you do if I have a lot of pain or other uncomfortable symptoms?
  • How will you help us find excellent professionals with special training when we need them (e.g., medical, surgical and palliative care specialists, faith leader, social workers, etc.)?
  • Will you let me know if treatment stops working so that my family and I can make appropriate decisions?
  • Will you support me in getting hospice care?
  • If I reach a point where I am too sick to speak for myself, how will you make decisions about my care?
  • Will you still be available to me even when I’m sick and close to the end of my life?


If you have a question that isn’t addressed above, email Caring Connections at caringinfo@nhpco.org.

Have a Question for a Seasons Hospice Nurse?

Our Team of Certified Palliative and Hospice Nurses is available for you. If you would like to ask a specific question and receive a personal response, use our secure online form to contact one of our registered CHPN nurses.

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