How to talk to seriously ill friends

How to talk to seriously ill friends

Here is a great article we found through "Today" and would like to share.

How to talk to seriously ill friends

Breast cancer survivor writer advises against using clichés

April 17, 2013

Inspired by unintentionally hurtful reactions to her breast cancer diagnosis, Letty Cottin Pogrebin interviewed other patients about their experiences and wrote "How to Be a Friend to a Friend Who's Sick."

The cancer survivor discussed her new book in the Wall Street Journal, noting that that "most of us feel dis-eased around disease." However, she writes, patients do not want to hear clichés like "Everything happens for a reason."

Instead, she offers the "10 Commandments for Conversing With a Sick Friend." When talking to a sick friend or family member, Pogrebin advises:

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1. Celebrating the good news and not glazing over the bad news;
2. Treating your friend how you always have, but never forget the disease has changed him or her; 
3. When a friend expresses his or her pain, do not compare their illness to something you have experienced;
4. Do not assume you know the details of your friend's illness;
5. Verify information before putting your foot in your mouth even if you have to keep notes on your friend's illness;
6. Ask your friend for help or find ways to make him or her feel useful;
7. Never infantilize an adult patient;
8. Avoid giving health advice or tips;
9. Let terminally ill patients set the conversational tone for talking about death; and
10. Do not force patients to practice positive thinking.

Discussing her book in the Wall Street Journal, Pogrebin writes that telling a terminal ill patient "to keep up the fight isn't just futile, it's cruel."

If all else fails, Pogrebin says that the best response in any encounter with a sick friend is to say, "Tell me what I can do to make things easier for you—I really want to help" (Pogrebin, Journal, 4/12; Pogrebin, "Today Books," NBC News, 4/9).

 

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