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Visiting the Sick

Posted on February 26, 2010 at 3:10 PM

 By Gary Konecky

"Just as G-d clothes the naked... so must you clothe the naked. The Holy Blessed One visits the sick... so you must also visit the sick. The Holy Blessed One comforts mourners... so must you comfort mourners. The Holy Blessed One buries the dead... so must you bury the dead." - Talmud (Sotah 14a)


This past summer, a good and dear friend came to town to visit her dying father.  She asked me to accompany her to the nursing home in the city that was taking care of her father.  The nursing home we visited was considered one of the better nursing home in this region.  I was appalled by the conditions there.  The facility was obviously understaffed and what little staff they did have did not seem motivated to do anything.   One patient had to go to the nurses’ station and make a fuss so as to help another patient get the nurses’ attention so that other patient would be taken to the bathroom.  In the case of my friend’s dying father, we had to meet with senior staff at the nursing home to request that they change this dying man’s diaper and give him extra blankets.


We met with the senior staff in an unused dayroom.  While we were meeting, the nurses’ aide was taking the patient mentioned earlier from the bathroom that was part of the dayroom suite.  The aide had to navigate this patient through several closed doors. While she was opening one of the doors to do this, she left the patient in a wheelchair facing me.  I waved at him.  The way his face lit up you would have thought I gave him a million dollars. Why did this man get so happy from a mere wave of my hand?  When was the last time anyone had paid any attention to him?  Does anyone come to visit?  It is obvious from my visit that the staff has neither the time nor any inclination to pay any attention to him.


According to The Turn A Frown Around Foundation (TAFA), 50% of nursing home residents and 75% of patients in mental hospitals do not get any visitors.  Can you imagine the loneliness?  Can you imagine the quality of life when you are left in a soiled diaper for hours or an entire day at a time?  Can you imagine the quality of life when another patient has to plead with nurses for someone to take you to the bathroom?

The Talmud (Nedarim 39b) also teaches us: "R. Helbo fell ill. Thereupon R. Kahana went and proclaimed:    R. Helbo is sick. But none visited him. He rebuked them [sc. the scholars], saying,  Did it not once happen that one of R. Akiba's disciples fell sick, and the Sages did not visit him? So R. Akiba himself entered [his house] to visit him, and because they swept and sprinkled the ground before him, he recovered. 'My master,' said he, 'you have revived me!' [Straightway] R. Akiba went forth and lectured: He who does not visit the sick is like a shedder of blood."


The Talmud tells us that it is our duty to visit the sick (Sotah 14a).  The Talmud (Nedarim 39b) also teaches us that it is our duty to make sure they have a clean sick room, that they are comfortable and that their needs are looked after. 

Imagine the difference we could make in the quality of someone’s life if we took a few hours out of our busy schedule and visited one or more of these patients. Imagine the difference we could make in a patient's life, if that patient knew someone cared enough to visit. 

Imagine the difference in the quality of the patient's care if the nursing home staff, or the hospital staff, knew someone was coming to visit the patient and that while they were visiting they would be checking up on the quaility of care the staff provided.


For more information, please contact:  Drew Horn, President of TAFA at 973-746-7353 or at [email protected]  Also, please visit TAFA's website.

A link to the TAFA website can also be found on this website's Links page.

Link to an interview with Drew Horn of TAFA

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The Talmud quotes are from The Soncino Talmud, Judaic Classics by David Kantrowitz, Version 3.0.8, Copyright 1991-2004. 

Categories: Sermon, Helping Others

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