Supporting Someone with Chronic Illness, by Traci Rogers

Chronic Illness can’t always be seen, but to the person living with it – it’s always there. Unfortunately, sometimes good intentioned words like, “But you look so good,” or “You’re so lucky to have the good parking space,” do more harm than realized.

Here are a few things that may be more effective to show your support to someone living with a chronic illness.

  1. Learn about their illness: Be informed! The expectation isn’t that you will become the subject matter expert on their illness, but rather understand the symptoms and triggers of a person’s condition.
  2. Don’t police behavior: As you learn more about a person’s chronic illness, you may be tempted to offer unsolicited advice about their activities or nutrition. DON’T DO THAT! It may be well-intentioned, but it probably isn’t welcome.
  3. Just be there: Simply letting the person know that while you don’t fully understand what they are experiencing, you are there for them can sometimes be enough. It isn’t necessary, or even possible, for you to ‘fix it’. Your willingness to listen is invaluable.
  4. Be a sounding board: Some chronic illnesses can cause cognitive issues or ‘foggy’ brain. Help your friend or family member make sense of complicated paperwork or tasks. BUT – and this is important – offer to help, and then wait for your offer to be accepted; don’t just take over.
  5. Be flexible: Understand that a person’s chronic illness may force a last-minute change of plans. Trust me – he/she feels bad that they had to make the change.
  6. Offer to help with errands or household tasks: If you are going to the grocery store, check-in to see if they need anything. Have a recent snowstorm? Check-in to make sure they can get out of their driveway.
  7. Keep connected: A chronic illness isn’t going away and you might feel yourself developing friend fatigue where it’s easier to stay away than to deal with the illness. Stay connected – your friend or family member needs you!

What are some of the ways you’ve shown support to someone living with a chronic illness?

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