When a family member or close friend suffers from a chronic illness, it can be difficult to know how to help. About half of all Americans have a chronic disease, and many suffer from more than one. While you may feel powerless, there are several things you can do to make a difference in the lives of those you love. Below are a few simple ways to make a real difference for someone with a chronic illness.
1. Be There for Them Emotionally
When someone is dealing with a chronic illness, they may not always want to talk about how they’re feeling. Due to the nature of chronic diseases, they may feel like they’re a burden or that they’re not worth your time. However, you must let them know you’re there for them if they need to talk. Sometimes just being available to listen can be a huge help.
Try to be understanding and patient if they’re having a bad day or if they need to cancel plans. Don’t take it personally if they seem distant at times. Remember that they’re dealing with a lot and may not always have the energy to be social. Understanding and being supportive will mean a lot to them.
2. Learn More About Their Illness
If you want to be able to help and support your loved one, it’s essential to learn as much as you can about their illness. This way, you’ll be better equipped to understand what they’re going through and how you can help. Start by researching online, reading books, or talking to their doctor. They can also tell you what resources have been helpful for them in the past.
Once you have a good understanding of the illness, you can offer support in specific ways. For one, many people volunteer for patient clinical trials for healthy patients to help researchers develop new treatments. This is a great way to directly help find a cure for the illness. You can also use your knowledge of the illness to help plan outings or find activities that won’t worsen the symptoms.
3. Help Out with Daily Tasks and Chores
Chronic illness can often make everyday tasks and chores much more difficult. If you live close by, offer to help with grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, and running errands. If you don’t live close by, see if there are any chores or errands you can do remotely, such as paying bills or scheduling doctor’s appointments. You can also hire a professional service to help with these tasks if necessary.
When helping out, check in with your loved one first. They may not want help or may want to do things themselves, even if it’s difficult. It’s important to respect their wishes and not try to take over. Instead, offer your help as a genuine option they can take or leave as they please. Don’t be offended if they decline your help, as it’s not personal.
4. Send Them Thoughtful Gifts and Cards
Sending a card or small gift is always nice, but it means even more when someone is dealing with a chronic illness. A thoughtful gesture can brighten their day and let them know you’re thinking of them. Just be sure to check with the person first to see if there’s anything specific they might need or want before you send anything.
But you don’t always have to spend money to make someone feel loved and supported. Sometimes, sending a handwritten letter or card can be just as meaningful. In fact, taking the time to sit down and write out your thoughts can be therapeutic for both you and the recipient. You can also put together a care package with items that will make their day-to-day life easier, such as healthy snacks, comfortable clothes, or helpful books or websites.
5. Make Time to Hang Out
When someone is dealing with a chronic illness, they may not always have the energy to socialize. However, it’s vital to make an effort to spend time with them when you can. This could mean meeting for coffee, walking, or watching a movie together. Being in each other’s company can be a nice way to relax and take a break from the challenges of the illness.
It’s also important to be flexible when hanging out. If your friend or loved one isn’t feeling well, they may need to cancel plans. Try not to take it personally, as it’s not a reflection on you. Just be patient and understanding, and make sure they know you’re always happy to hang out when they feel up for it.
Chronic illness can be difficult for the person suffering and their loved ones. However, there are certain things you can do to make a difference in the life of someone you care about who is dealing with a chronic illness. From being there emotionally to helping with daily tasks, even small gestures can go a long way. So next time someone close to you is going through a tough time, remember these simple tips on how you can help.