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Tell Us: How Do You Answer Questions about Your Caree’s Health?

ringing_telephoneIn yesterday’s edition of Chicago Tribune, Miss Manners answered a caregiving question.

Which makes me wonder how you would answer the same question. Here’s the question:

Dear Miss Manners,

My husband has a chronic, debilitating illness. Frequently I field phone calls from his family or queries from friends I run into, and I don’t seem to have the right answer for “How’s Bob?”

I hate telling people the situation is awful every time I talk to them. Some people don’t really want to know, and it’s depressing for everyone else. I’ve tried out, “There’s no change,” “About the same” or “He’s managing,” but even those are getting stale. I already know I can’t respond with a casual “He’s fine,” because people often take that to mean he’s improved, inevitably leading to a need for clarification.

He has one family member I would like to tell this: “When I say he’s OK, what I really mean is that nothing has changed, some days are worse than others, we don’t expect it to improve, he’s not in the hospital and he’s not dead. That’s what ‘OK’ means to us.”

My husband emphasizes his poor condition to this person, and wants me to do the same, so the family member will leave him alone. I haven’t observed it to be effective. Any suggestions I can add to my repertoire?

What do you think? How do you answer questions about your caree’s health? Please share your suggestions in our comments section, below.

About Denise Brown

Avatar of Denise
I began working with family caregivers in 1990 and launched in 1996 to help and support them. Through my blog, I share words of comfort and offer coping strategies and tips. I also write opinion pieces about recent research, community programs and media coverage of caregiving issues.


  1. Avatar of Jane


    I’m curious what advice did Miss Manners give her? I know exactly how she feels. I don’t know what to say sometimes either. People don’t want a long-winded reply … something I am all too good at.

    Have a blessed day!
    Jane~mom to Nicole, VSD, PFO, Eisenmenger, PAH, BHJS
    “If there ever is a tomorrow when we’re not together…this is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.” A.A. Milne

    • Avatar of Denise

      Hi–Here’s the answer to the question from Miss Manners:

      “About as well as can be expected, thank you. I’ll tell him you called.”

      Miss Manners realizes that this is no better than what you have been saying, but it’s longer, and the last part is a signoff, so she hopes it will help. Please allow her to say that she also hopes that you don’t dismiss everyone, but are frank with the people whom you and he really care about – for their sake, yours and your husband’s.

  2. Avatar of Richard

    I simply answer depending on the person with either, “Some Good, Some Bad” and over time (20 years) I have been able to tell what amount of or kind of information certain people are looking for and will tell them those specific points and no more no less. And it is just that, some want just a brief, “Doing OK” when others what “The Full Monte” more or less. There are times also when I have been through a lot and I will respond with, “I’m sorry it’s been hectic can I get with you tomorrow?” and that works.
    I hope this helps, good luck.

  3. Avatar of ejourneys

    My strategy is similar to Richard’s. I give more information to people who know our situation and are genuinely concerned. To those who give more of a knock-off line, I usually say something like, “We’re hanging in there, thanks.”

  4. Avatar of Pegi

    Since the onset of my husband’s various conditions, I have told close family members and friends both his and mine: everything he has is chronic, everything he has is progressive. But we don’t live our lives that way. He is and will not be an invalid and please don’t treat as such. We go on with the newest normal we have. Other then that, pretty much the same as Richard and ej.

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