What to say when someone is ill

WhatToGetMy Instructional Article

  • Sickness can range from mild to severe depending on symptoms and medical diagnosis
  • When someone you care for has fallen ill, you feel helpless because there’s very little you can do to help them and your capabilities are limited.
  • Knowing what to say in times of sickness can encourage the person to not give up on the fight and to know that they are loved.
  • Remember to always be empathetic when you are speaking to someone who is ill or someone whose close relative is ill. We hope you can find the right words in the article to help you communicate your sympathies.

When someone you love falls sick, it may feel like everything in the world has stopped functioning and you may be ridden with anxiety. When this happens, sometimes having people around you express words of sympathy to you really helps you get through the day. This should be your mindset when someone you know has been affected by an illness of someone they care about, approach them with the empathy and kind words you would want for yourself in this situation.


When someone you care about has fallen ill, the first thing you will have to do is get them medical care immediately, this could mean driving them to the hospital and waiting for the doctor to give them their diagnosis. Once this has been done, you can either take them back home or if the illness is severe and they get admitted to the hospital, then you will need to bring them extra clothes and some toiletries. Afterward, you must inform family members about the person’s illness.


It is important to seek medical care when you have symptoms of illness, when your body is unwell it will let you know. However, research has shown that most adults will avoid getting medical attention even when it is necessary to do so. In a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, subjects from low-income class cited going to the doctors as a waste of time stating that the symptoms that they have would go away on their own in time. Below is a table of some of the reasons given and the percentage of people not seeking medical care:

Why People Don’t Seek Medical Attention. Source: NCBI

Why People Don't Seek Medical Attention


When you are thinking of what to say when someone is not feeling well, you will want to make your words come across as empathetic and understanding. What you say when someone is ill is very important as this is a very sensitive topic. So what do you say to someone who is unwell? Here are some examples of what you should say:  

1. Ask how they are feeling:

Although knowing that they are unwell, it is important that you ask them how they are feeling because sickness is unpredictable and some days are better than others. Asking how someone who is sick how they feel will let them know that you are thinking about them. 

2. Offer help:

You could offer help to them or their family to run errands for them, drive them to hospital appointments, and if you can afford it you can offer to help them out financially because chances are (depending on the type of illness and how long they have been sick) they are drowning in hospital bills. 

3. Tell them to get better:

Although it might seem trivial, wishing someone to get better can boost up their mood and make them feel better for a while. It is a nice gesture and it will go a long way. 

4. Ask if it is a good time to visit:

Don’t just assume they want visitors all the time. Ask them what time and day would be appropriate and comfortable for them to have a visitor over. This will tell them that you still respect them and their boundaries even when they are at their most vulnerable.


When a friend or family member falls ill, there may seem like there aren’t the right things to say to a sick person. Because we feel helpless in the moment, we tend to underestimate the power that words have on human beings. Verbal communication is very crucial especially when someone is not feeling well. Here are some words to say when someone is in the hospital or sick at home that will surely make them feel loved and let them know you are thinking about them.

  • I am thinking of you
  • I hope you are feeling better today 
  • What can I get you on my way?
  • Are there any side effects with your medication? 
  • Are you sleeping enough?” or “are you getting enough rest?
  • How is the medication you are taking?
  • Is your appetite back? What food would you like for me to get you? 

Similarly, you might want to say some encouraging words when someone is seriously ill. These are some of the comforting words you can say to a person with a serious illness. 

  • You are stronger than (the disease,) I know you will beat it
  • You are putting up a good fight, we are all rooting for you
  • I wish you more strength today
  • The worst of it has passed, you will be better soon

For more comforting words, check out these inspirational quotes for sick family members to find the right words of encouragement for a sick family member.


How do you wish a sick person well? Be empathetic and make the questions about them. Do not try to tell stories about how once you knew someone who knew someone who had the same disease as them and they unfortunately died (seriously, why do humans do this?) It is distasteful, to say the least, and it implies that the person who now has this disease is going to die from it. Nobody wants to hear that.

Here are a few things you can write in a get well card that are empathetic and thoughtful:

  • Feel better soon, I love you.
  • You are on my mind and in my heart, I wish you a speedy recovery
  • Get well soon.
  • I hope you continue gaining your strength back each day, I am rooting for you


1. Soup:

This is perhaps the oldest and most traditional gift for the seasonal flu remedy. You can also send over Lozenges with the soup to help alleviate some of the flu symptoms.

2. Juice:

This helps rehydrate the sick person and give them the vitamins that they need. We recommend sending over freshly squeezed juice as it has the most 

3. Get-well card:

Sometimes thoughtful words go a long way. Let those you care about know you are thinking of them in their illness.

4. Fleece blanket:

These are great because they are not too warm and so they are perfect for patients whose body temperature is fluctuating.

Refer to this article for more ideas on what to get someone when they are sick.


What do you say when someone’s relative is in the hospital? Well, you keep the message simple and straight to the point making sure you let them know you are thinking of them and keeping them close to (your) heart. Finding comforting words for a friend with a sick parent can be hard especially when you don’t know how it feels to experience one go through it. Words of encouragement for a friend with a sick parent can have such a positive impact on your friend that may give them the strength to hold onto hope. Here are some things you can say to someone who has a sick family member.

  • I heard that (relation/name) has fallen ill and I wanted to check in on you and see how you are doing. I know how stressful and upsetting it can feel to have to watch someone so close to you be in so much pain. 
  • I am always here if you need me, just text – or call. 
  • You can count on me if you need a shoulder to lean on 
  • Do not hesitate to call if you need anything from me – even if it’s just to talk.
  • Would you like me to come over later? Or, Is it okay if I come over later?
  • I hope you are taking care of yourself in these difficult times.


There just aren’t enough words in the world to express sympathy to someone who has just found out someone they care for deeply has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. It might seem futile to say anything at all because nothing you could possibly say will change anything – just as daunting as this realization can be for you, it is just as frightening (if not more) for the person who has to deal with the inevitable loss of a loved one. 

When you choose your words to comfort someone whose family member is terminally ill, remember to make your words meaningful and empathetic. Choose words that convey emotion and understanding rather than indifference. With that in mind, here are some of the things you can say to a person whose family member is terminally ill:

1. I cannot begin to imagine just how incredibly difficult this is for you; I am sorry you have to go through it – but you don’t have to go through it alone. We are all here for you if you need anything. 

2. Your (relation) is such a gift, this world got a little bit better because they were here.

3. I know how close you and your (relation) are, and even though this is a wearying time, I know that they were lucky to have had you in their life

4. Even though we may not understand why things are happening the way they are, I know that there is a reason for everything and soon enough we will understand why something so cruel could happen to someone so full of love.

 5. I wish peace and healing upon your soul in these difficult times.


What do you do when someone in your family or someone in your close circle of friends has been diagnosed with a terminal illness? After the initial shock of it all, there are things you will have to consider to do to make this transition bearable:

1. Make time to say goodbye:

Spend as much time with your loved one as you can, they need to feel that they are loved especially in their last moments.

2. Make amends:

We might not always get along with family members, for whatever reason, but it is important to make amends when one is approaching death because it is the last time you will get to speak to them and see them – every argument or falling out you have ever had with them seems futile in those moments. Let them know that you have forgiven them if they had ever wronged you, or ask them for forgiveness if you were the one in the wrong. 

3. Discuss Advance Care Directives:

Although this is a difficult topic to discuss, it is nevertheless an important one. Make plans with your loved ones while they are still lucid on their medical wishes and who would take over their autonomy if they should be unable to do so themselves because of a mental or physical inability.

4. Talk about death:

Prepare yourselves for the inevitable end that is coming. Most people will approach death in one of two ways, they will either be afraid of dying or extremely peaceful about dying. Either way, you might want to consider therapy which can be beneficial for both the person dying – so that they can be mentally prepared of what it means to be dead, and the person who will be left behind – so that they will not harbor feelings of resentment towards the person who died.


  • If I visit a sick person in the hospital and they are asleep, should I wake them?

The general rule is to not wake the patient up when they are sleeping. This could be because they are finally getting some rest after being in pain all day/night and your waking them up will only be upsetting to them. Instead, leave a note for them to read when they wake up to let them know that you had been around and you will be coming back another time.

  • What emotions can I expect if my dad gets diagnosed with a terminal illness?

When it comes to the emotional response to traumatic news, there isn’t one right way to feel. However, you are most likely to go through the five stages of grief; anger, denial, depression, bargaining, and acceptance – not experienced in this order (however, acceptance is always the last step). We recommend reading this article for more information on grieving and loss.


The most important thing to remember when saying anything – whether directly to the sick patient, or to someone whose family member is ill – is to be empathetic, genuine, and intentional with your words. Make whoever you are addressing your words to feel loved and cherished, even when they are on their deathbed. Be a light in their darkest times.





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