Surgery can be traumatic for many people. If you have a friend who has just gone through this procedure, they may be concerned about what to say or do. There are many great ways to be compassionate after surgery, and if you are empathetic and patient, you can be very helpful in your friend's recovery.
Method 1 of 3: Visiting Your Friend at the Hospital
Step 1. Plan your visit in advance
While the person might love that you usually show up without warning, during the recovery period from surgery, things are different. Not only do hospitals have specific visiting hours, but your friend may also need to prepare physically and emotionally before seeing someone.
- Find out the hospital's hours and policies for visitors. Depending on the location, the protocol used is different. If the patient is still in the recovery room, for example, only one visitor is allowed in at a time, with the permission and supervision of a nurse, and there are stricter rules for personal hygiene. Call the hospital in advance and ask about it.
- Try asking a family member or spouse for a good time to visit the person. That way you'll have a better idea of how she's feeling, what tests were done and if she wants to see anyone. Once you know, plan your visit accordingly. Call or text before you leave to ensure your presence is still welcome.
- Plan to stay for 20 to 30 minutes, but be sensible. If your friend seems tired or distracted, it's best to leave early. If you're happy to see you and excited that they're talking, feel free to stay longer.
Step 2. Know the etiquette and hygiene rules for the post-surgery period
Many things can be uncomfortable for patients who have just had this procedure, so avoid causing your friend discomfort during the visit.
- Do not use perfume or lotions with strong odors, as people are often sensitive to smells when they are sick or recovering from surgery.
- When you enter or leave your friend's room, wash your hands with soap, rubbing alcohol, or hand sanitizer. We are more likely to get germs after an operation.
- If you have an illness, such as the flu or a cold, ask the hospital staff if it is safe to visit your friend.
- If you are a smoker, only smoke in permitted places and do not let the smoke get near the person.
- Avoid the patient's bed as this can spread germs. Don't sit or put your feet in it.
- Do not touch the person's wounds or any medical equipment that is connected to them.
- Do not use the bathroom in the bedroom.
- Do not share toiletries or tissues with the patient.
Step 3. Take a gift
Everyone loves getting presents, especially when we're not feeling well. What matters is not how much you spent, but the fact that you care about the person. Consider taking something simple for your friend so he can better enjoy the post-surgery period.
- Many people think about bringing flowers, but they are not suitable for a hospital as they take up a lot of space in the room, which is already limited. Also, they rot very quickly and are difficult to transport elsewhere.
- Boredom is a big issue that affects hospital patients, so consider choosing an interactive gift. Bring novels, magazines, crossword or sudoku books, or a journal. If your friend has some kind of electronic equipment, such as an iPad or tablet, give them an iTunes or Amazon gift card so they can choose and buy entertainment media.
- If you are allowed to bring food, bring the patient's favorite snack, as it can be tiring to be eating hospital food.
Step 4. Make the hospital cozy
This kind of place is often cold and boring. If your friend's recovery period is too long, try to improve the hospital environment to make it less scary and more cozy.
- Decorate the room. They are usually beige or white, which can get a little depressing as time goes on. Bring colorful posters, blankets and pillows, or a small decorative frame. Remember to check with hospital staff that this does not violate any institution policy.
- Bring something familiar to the person. During a traumatic event, such as surgery, the feeling of familiarity can be comforting. Make a small scrapbook with friends, family, pets, and loved ones. Borrow his iPod and create a custom playlist of all his favorite songs to lift the mood, or burn a CD with them. Buy your friend's favorite movies and TV DVDs, as many hospital rooms have TVs for patients to use.
- Act naturally during the visit. The person is likely eager to get back to feeling "normal" again, so break in on the friends you have in common and talk about what's on TV and the other news. Let her feel like she's still part of the same world as before, even if she's stuck in a hospital bed.
Step 5. Organize group visits
If possible, and after verifying that the patient is up to it, invite several friends to visit.
- Group visits give a greater impression of going out with friends than a conversation with one person, since we tend to go out in groups. Your friend may also be happy to see how many people care about him and have taken the trouble to visit him.
- Check hospital policies to find out if there is no maximum number of people at the same time.
Step 6. Plan for the future
This sort of thing can help your friend have something to look forward to after his hospital stay and reinforce the idea that his needs will not be forgotten when he is discharged.
- Set a date for you to go see a movie, go out to dinner, have coffee, go shopping, etc. a few days after your friend's discharge. He will like the idea of having something to look forward to.
- Offer any help on the way home, such as driving him home or doing some chores during his recovery.
Method 2 of 3: Helping Back Home
Step 1. Help with the food
It is one of the biggest problems patients have during the post-surgery period, since we all need to eat and cooking or shopping is often difficult in this situation. Be prepared to help your friend with their meals during their recovery.
- Offer to buy groceries. If you can do this, accept this task. When doing your own shopping, check if he needs anything.
- Bring him some dishes. If the person doesn't like someone doing their shopping, cook for them. Some great options are dishes that can be reheated and stored for a long time. Choose casseroles, soups, lasagna and salads.
- Watch out for any dietary restrictions your friend may have. Often, some foods are prohibited after surgery. Ask him if his doctor has made any recommendations before preparing a dish. Also, if he already has a restriction before surgery-such as not being able to eat gluten or being a vegetarian-make sure you know what it is.
Step 2. Offer your help with household chores
Don't tell the person to call you if you need something. She probably doesn't want to bother you. Offer more specific help, such as, "I have free time this afternoon. Do you want help with anything?" Housework is a burden after such a procedure, and the person will be very grateful for the sympathy.
- Wash clothes, dishes, dust and do any other type of cleaning. Your friend is likely to be bedridden, so don't let these things get behind you. If you have a free hour, donate it to a friend who needs help.
- If he has pets, take care of them too. Clean the cat's litter box, take the dog for a walk, make sure they have food and water. He will be grateful for all this.
- If necessary, babysit for free. Whether a person is a single parent or a spouse who is busy with work, they are likely to need help with their children after surgery. Babysitting will make things a lot easier for her.
Step 3. Provide entertainment media
While cleaning and cooking are real ways to help a friend in need, sometimes recovery is very tedious, and all you want is a good chat and a little fun. Spend a weekend night with your friend and keep him busy with conversation and some activity.
- Share what's going on in your life, but always be cheerful and upbeat. There's no need to mention that you just got fired or that you had a horrible fight with your spouse. The idea is for you to be a source of positive energy.
- Watch a movie or series that your friend likes. Ask him in advance what he's dying to see and take the DVD or look for the program on a site like Netflix.
- Board and card games are a great way to break out of boredom. If you can, get a group together and take them to the person's house to play poker or Monopoly.
- Although alcohol is good in most social situations, it is unlikely that your friend will be able to drink while taking post-surgery medication. Be polite. Do not drink near him during the recovery period.
Step 4. Take him for any return exams
After the surgery, he will need to make several appointments in the following week. They can be very stressful, and having someone's support is great for a recovering patient.
- Tell your friend you can take him to the doctor. Medication often interferes with a person's ability to drive, and using public transport can be a problem. That kind of help is invaluable.
- Enjoy it in the waiting room. Bring letters, crossword puzzles, magazines, books, or conduct casual, funny conversation while waiting for the doctor.
- Plan something fun after the appointment, even if it's a simple thing to stop for a milkshake or lunch. Having something to look forward to can make going to the doctor more bearable.
Method 3 of 3: Discovering How to Communicate
Step 1. Assess how close you are to this friend
The level of emotional intimacy makes a huge difference when it comes to what you should and shouldn't tell someone after surgery. If they are close, it will be easier to ask questions without hesitation and to express more openly how you feel. If it's a more formal or new friendship, act natural and affectionate, but don't let the seriousness of the surgery force you to say something that will make you both uncomfortable. Talk about light subjects, for example "How are you feeling?" and "Need help with anything today?"
Step 2. Let your friend feel what he needs to feel
It is likely that he is not doing very well after the operation. Often, in situations like this, we find that people need stimulating conversations and comfort. While this is a good idea, it can be frustrating if he simply wants to express his own thoughts. Let him talk and accept his feelings with patience and empathy.
- Avoid phrases like "I understand" or "I know how you feel". It is very difficult to actually understand a situation that you are just observing. Instead, say something like, "I understand why you feel this way. Can you talk a little more about this?"
- Don't say things like "You shouldn't feel this way" or "Cheer up". This type of phrase can seem like a criticism if the person is feeling discouraged. Instead, say, "I'm sorry you feel that way. Can you tell me why this is happening?" and other words that show your friend that you are paying attention.
Step 3. Try to be an active listener
This occurs when you make a conscious effort to listen to what the person has to say and to understand the message being conveyed. If you are helping a friend after surgery, he or she is your priority, and you should make that clear. He may need to vent his feelings, so try to be patient and an active listener.
- Watch. Give your friend your undivided attention by looking directly at him, putting aside any distracting thoughts, taking an interest in their body language, and avoiding being distracted by their surroundings.
- Show that you are listening. Nod occasionally, smile and use other facial expressions. Display an inviting and attractive posture, and encourage the speaker to continue with comments like "Yes" and "Got it."
- Provide an opinion. Your role here is to understand what is being said, so you may need to comment on what your friend has said or ask something to understand them better. Try saying things like, "So, you're telling me…" and "As I understand it…". Ask questions to clarify points, such as "What do you mean by…" and "Is that what you mean?".
- Leave the criticisms for later. Don't interrupt the person. Wait until she stops talking before asking questions and don't dispute or question her answers.
- Respond appropriately. Be open and honest with your answers and state your opinions respectfully, without dismissing your friend's concerns or concerns.
Step 4. Ask the right questions
While the person may be interested in knowing about you and your life, only talk about it when they give you an opening. The purpose here is to talk about your friend and how he is feeling, so be careful what you ask.
- Do not inquire about his health or test results unless he mentions it. Often, someone recovering from surgery is tired of talking about medical matters and may not want to go into detail about their appointments.
- Ask how the person is feeling. A vaguer sentence is better. This gives your friend some control, letting you decide if you want to talk about your problems or keep things light.
- See if he needs anything. We are often embarrassed to ask for favors, so offer to do something if he needs help with daily tasks.
- Talk about your friend's family and the people he loves. Show him you care by showing a real interest in the things and people he cares about.
Step 5. Understand the nature of the anxiety caused by the surgery
The key to being a supportive and caring friend is empathy. Seeking to understand any fears associated with the surgery can help you feel more empathetic and be a more helpful listener.
- Control, or rather the loss of it, is one of the biggest fears when it comes to the period after surgery. People fear being dependent on others for their well-being, and losing total control over their bodies and movements during this time is frustrating. Understand that your friend is feeling helpless and remind them that this is normal.
- What matters when having surgery is the improvement that will come to the patient's life. People go through this to treat long-term illnesses or injuries, and if the improvement is gradual or the recovery period is long, disappointment can quickly set in. Think about this when dealing with your friend and remind him that his progress will take some time.
- Going to hospitals or undergoing anesthesia can promote the fear of dying. This is perhaps the biggest fear associated with surgery, so be aware that your friend may want to talk about heavy topics when you visit. Be prepared emotionally for this.
Step 6. Know how to deal with anxiety caused by surgery and the hospital
Most people, even the calmest ones, feel some kind of fear or anxiety within healthcare institutions. Find ways to handle this and share them with your friend.
- Self-confidence is important. That bad feeling appears when it doesn't exist. Distrust often ends up being projected onto others, although it is usually a reflection of a lack of self-confidence. Remind your friend to trust his body and his own ability to do whatever it takes to recover.
- Take action to help reduce anxiety. Tell the person to do activities that help them deal with this feeling and that promote well-being: eat right, exercise, meditate, spend time away from home and/or with friends and family, having hobbies, etc.
- Planning is also very important to staying calm. While your friend is recovering, tell him to focus his energy on this, not anxiety. Help him make a post-surgery plan for the days he will be in bed. Make lists of all the necessary supplies - such as groceries, reading material and toiletries. Is there anything about his work that your friend can do after the surgery? If so, help him figure out what and create a plan for it.
- While using your email or social media to talk about how you feel about the situation is cool, think that maybe your friend isn't recovered enough to look at your computer. Take a minute to call or pay him a visit instead of showing your compassion online.
- When the person feels better, offer to take a walk around town with them. Getting out of the house for a while can lessen the feeling of isolation.
- Don't overdo the positive energy. Be compassionate and affectionate, but remember that undergoing surgery is a traumatic experience and that everyone needs to deal with it in their own way. Let your friend express his feelings, and listen to him and show empathy.
- Offer to take the person to any follow-up appointments that may be needed. It helps to have emotional support and any physical assistance during the recovery period.