What to Say (and What Not Say) to a Sick Person, 7 Advices

Choosing the appropriate words to say when someone is ill can feel like a game of darts. Here are a few hints.

The most important thing to remember is that there is no one perfect thing to say when someone is going through a difficult time, whether it's a short-term illness, a long-term chronic condition, or a terminal illness.

Everyone is different, and some people will react differently to what you say.

Being truthful, open, and willing to offer assistance goes a long way toward demonstrating that you care about your person.

Seven things to say

Davina Tiwari, a social worker and certified solution-focused therapist based in Ontario, Canada, suggests tailoring your message based on whether the person is suffering from a minor illness or a severe illness.

In the case of a simple cold, for example, your tone may be a little lighter.

"If the illness is chronic or terminal, responses may take on a deeper meaning," she says. Tiwari adds that if the illness is more serious, you should provide more assistance.

1. Provide emotional support

Providing emotional support during a difficult time can be extremely reassuring for those who are ill.

When we're sick, it's reassuring to know that someone is looking out for us.

"I'm here for you," says Do.

"I can be that person for you if you need someone to listen."

"Let's see if we can get through this together."

2. Pose inquiries

You probably don't know what the sick person requires right away, so instead of making assumptions, ask open-ended questions.

"What is the best way for me to help you?"

By asking direct questions, you can avoid awkward guessing games and learn exactly what a person requires.

3. Offer to assist with chores

The individual most likely has a lot on their mind. An illness can make it difficult to perform routine physical tasks and daily chores in some cases. Offering to help around the house or run errands could be extremely beneficial.

"I'd like to assist." I would like to .

Making a suggestion relieves the person's stress and can be proactive.

Chores that you could assist with include:

-taking care of children

-doing laundry, cleaning someone's house, or providing a house -cleaning service as a gift

-purchasing groceries

-arranging for a meal train to transport them to doctor's appointments.

4. Inquire about what not to do

Not every person suffering from a disease will have the same needs or desires. Tiwari advises being direct and asking what not to do for the individual. This also helps to respect their personal boundaries, or areas in which they are not comfortable bringing others.

"What would be inconvenient for you right now, so that I don't do it?"

5. Express yourself honestly

When you have a friend who is ill, it is acceptable to express your feelings openly. Saying what's on your mind is never a bad thing, but keep in mind that they may not always respond in the way you expect.

It might be a good idea to concentrate on your loved one rather than your own feelings.

"I'm sending you lots of love and support," say you.

6. Remind them of their significance

An illness, especially one that is chronic or terminal, can feel all-consuming. Some people may begin to believe that their illness defines them.

They may feel as if they are losing pieces of themselves. Talking about their interests, making small talk, or engaging in unrelated deep conversations may make them feel better.

They may also believe that because of their illness, people no longer want to be around them, or if they frequently cancel plans due to health issues.

"I just want you to know I care about you and am thinking about you," you should say.

7. Admit that you don't know what to say

It's also fine if you don't know what to say, according to Tiwari.


"I'm not sure what to say or do, but I just want you to know I'm available if you need me." Please let me know how I can assist you."

Added bonus

These sections on the appropriate tone and gestures to demonstrate your openness to support may be useful to you.

What to avoid saying

When speaking with someone who is ill, Tiwari advises you to avoid discussing your own health issues.

Though it may feel right and appear well-intentioned, focusing on your own health issues or your connection to their condition may be dismissive and invalidating.

When speaking with a friend who has recently been diagnosed with cancer, the American Cancer SocietyTrusted Source advises against sharing in-depth stories about other cancer-affected friends and family members you know.

Still, you could leave it at telling the person that you're familiar with cancer because you know someone who has.

*Don'ts "I've had a lot worse!" You're all right."

"You'll be fine in no time."

"Strengthen up."

"It's not such a big deal."

"Quit whining."

These statements may make a sick person feel as if they must conceal their illness from you.

It may also be a good idea to refrain from offering unsolicited advice. This is especially true for people who have been sick for a long time. They've probably already heard it. "Shoulding" on someone implies that you know more about their lived experience than they do.

What comes next?

What else can you do to help someone who is ill? Tiwari suggests acting as a spokesperson — if you and your loved one are close and have their permission — and sharing updates with your loved one's friends and family.

This relieves them of the burden of informing others about their illness, which can be exhausting.

While expressing support for the individual is important, communication also entails a lot of listening. Being helpful also entails actively listening.

Several older studies

According to a reliable source, doctors frequently interrupt patients, so simply allowing the person who is ill to speak may help them feel more understood.

Sometimes the person who is ill does not want to talk or respond to your supportive thoughts and questions. They may want you to simply be physically present for them or to give them some space, and both options are healthy and acceptable.

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