DEAR ABBY: I have just returned from visiting a close friend in the next town. She was exhausted from caring for her husband, who has terminal cancer -- but even more so from the many visits from loving friends and relatives around the country.
I experienced the same thing a few years ago, so I'm hoping you will help me to inform people of some basic rules for visiting families going through this profoundly trying experience.
-- Don't go for a "vacation," but rather to lend support -- and only if there is no objection.
-- Go healthy. Remember, the patient has no immunity after chemotherapy.
-- Provide your own transportation. Stay in a motel unless the home is large and the hostess has asked you to stay.
-- Keep visits short and positive. Long conversations are exhausting.
-- Provide food, preferably ready-cooked for simplicity, and do the cleanup.
-- Leave the house for periods of time (even a day or two) so the family can resume their medical routine.
-- Change the bed if you stay in the home. Remember, there is no maid service.
-- And last, require nothing of the family. There is nothing left for them to give.
Thank you, Abby, for letting me speak for so many. -- GOT IT OFF MY CHEST
DEAR GOT IT: Well said. I particularly like your recommendations to stay someplace other than the home, to keep visits short so as not to deplete the patient, and not to expect to be entertained in any way. In life-or-death situations, the normal rules of hospitality do not apply, so ask not what your hosts can do for you, but what you can do for them -- and abide by what they tell you.