Having a friend undergo surgery can be difficult and awkward, and you may not be sure of the best way to handle it. Here are some useful guidelines on how to support a friend before and after surgery.
1. If you are aware of the surgery in advance, offer to help in any way you can
Your friend may need help with mail collection, transport, childcare pick-ups, or care of pets, plants or property, etc.
2. If your friend requires a hospital stay, consider visiting them in the hospital before or after the surgery
It is best to call ahead to make sure that your friend is up for visitors. Also check with hospital rules regarding visiting hours. Bring something useful and cheery, like a magazine or some fruit. While flowers are great, consider that your friend will have to haul them home which is inconvenient. Keep your visit brief.
If your friend prefers to not have phone calls or visitors, do not take it personally. Be considerate if planning to send an email. It may be difficult or even impossible for your friend to sit at a computer.
3. If you have a cold or other contagious illness, avoid visiting your friend after surgery
If you really must visit, consider wearing a surgical mask to prevent infecting other people. Even if you do not exhibit cold symptoms, wash your hands upon entering their hospital room or home.
4. Don’t ask about their diagnosis or surgery results
If they want you to know about their surgery, they’ll tell you. They are probably tired of discussing their affliction over and over again. So if you must know, ask their partner or care giver.
Don’t over-do the optimism. Having surgery is a traumatic experience and everyone needs to deal with it in their own way. Your friend may have gone through something far more traumatic than what is being communicated to you, and hearing “forced optimism” may make them feel even worse.
5. Once your friend returns home from the hospital, be sure to check on them!
Brief phone calls are always appreciated. Offer to help in any way that you can. Remember, even if a lack of tangible tasks are apparent, your friend may just appreciate a brief visit or phone call to put a smile on his or her face and reduce any feelings of isolation.
When they feel up to it, offer to take them for a short drive around town or to a quiet park. Just getting out of the house for a while can lessen the feeling of isolation.
6. Don’t just tell them to call you if they need anything after surgery
They will probably not want to bother you. Cal them up and ask whether they need any jobs done, and then just do it! Try to make yourself useful while youâ??re there â?? and not just sit and chat. Offering to vacuum the house, do the dishes, cook them a meal, do the shopping, take the dog for a walk, etc., are all practical things that your friend will appreciate.
7. Check before you bring your friend a home-cooked meal
It may take a while for their appetite to return. If they are recovering from abdominal surgery, they may have to avoid certain foods for a while, so check whether they have a specific diet. On no account bring someone recovering from surgery junk food or alcohol.
8. Share what’s going on in your life, but keep it positive or neutral
There’s no need to mention that you were just laid off or had a big fight with your spouse.
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