Ask the Doctor: How do I respond to a hospitalized friend?


I have a friend who was hospitalized. When visiting someone who is having a break from reality (“they are trying to get me…”) do I play along with the fantasy or do I correct the person: “No there is no one out there doing that”.

It is frequently useless to correct the person and tedious to listen endlessly to the repetition of the same fantasy. You can often change the subject to something more immediate, e.g. “Food OK?”, “Making friends?”, “Plans when you leave?”, etc. Patients often are not able to tolerate visitors for very long periods of time during the acute turmoil and it is usually best to keep the visits short until the person reintegrates more and can carry on a conversation. The patient needs to be in control of who they see and when.

Posted in Ask the Doctor Q&A.