What NOT to Say When a Loved One Is Facing a Health Concern

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 into the office or a get-together with friends or family and had someone say to you with great concern, “You really look tired today!” Even though you may have been feeling relatively perky prior to that moment, without warning you really DO feel exhausted and rundown. The words we speak to others in addition to the way we interpret them are very powerful. So when addressing people who have an acute health concern, it’s important to thoughtfully think about what to express, and possibly more to the point, what NOT to say, in order to help the person feel his or her best.

While we’re undoubtedly well-meaning, certain comments can be better left unsaid. Blurting out 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.”

The following are several remarks to eliminate from your vernacular when talking with people faced with an ongoing health concern:

  1. “My brother had a similar diagnosis and was ill for many months.” Discussing negative accounts about someone with an identical diagnosis is a surefire way to bring the person’s spirits down. Instead, understand that each person experiences health conditions in their own ways, and focus on the positives the individual you’re speaking to has achieved.
  2. “If you’d only stopped smoking (or exercised, or followed a healthier eating plan, etc.) this wouldn’t have happened.” It is impossible to determine whether the outcome could possibly have been different if healthier options had been made, and there’s no advantage to playing “what if.” Focus instead on giving the support and compassion the person needs now, and leave any thoughts of judgment at the door.
  3. “Do you remember…?” Particular to individuals who have dementia or other cognitive impairment, memory prompts such as this can add to the frustration and agitation already experienced. Discussing stories from times gone by just as if they’re brand-new is a great way to engage the individual instead.

Your absolute best bet should be to permit the person the opportunity to share (or not to share) about his or her experiences and feelings, hold the person’s hand if it’s welcome, give a bright bouquet of flowers or other small present or treat, and provide your warm, loving presence and encouragement.

For many more home care tips as well as hands-on assistance with professional care in the convenience of home, reach out to CareWorks Health Services, the trusted in home caregivers in Orange County.  We provide high quality, compassionate assistance for anyone confronted with a health crisis, bringing comfort and peace through companionship, assistance with meal preparation and household chores, transportation to medical appointments and procedures, running errands, and much more. Contact us online or call (949) 859-4700 to find out how we’re able to help.