Ten Ways to Help a Chronically Ill Friend

When “normal” people are injured or have surgery friends and family are happy to visit or help out — because it’s temporary. What happens when the offers of food and free babysitting stop?   I understand that everyone is busy and has lives to live, but odds are your chronically ill friend needs your help and support more than your temporarily injured friend.  Here are the some ways to help even if you aren’t asked.

1. Before you go grocery shopping, call and ask if she needs anything.  Picking up a few items takes very little effort on your part but could be a lifesaver for her.

2.  Call before you visit .  She may have been up all night in pain and planning on a nap in the afternoon.  Or she may be tossing her cookies as a medicine side effect and not up for visitors.

3.  Offer to help with housework.  Everyone loves a clean house but for someone with a limited amount of energy this may be impossible.  If you don’t have the time or don’t feel comfortable cleaning another person’s house , most maid services offer gift certificates.

4.  REALLY be there for her.  Being chronically ill can be depressing and isolating.  Let her know that you are thinking of her even when you are not there.  Help her stay connected to others that may have lost contact during her illness.

5.  Offer to take her to doctor visits.  Many of us can’t drive because medication or other symptoms make it unsafe .  It can also be boring or scary to wait for test results or a tardy doctor.

6.  Encourage her to find a hobby or learn a new skill together.  Crafts are often used to treat chronic pain disorders due to their calming effects.  It will also give you something to talk about other than her health problems.

7.  Don’t stop sharing.  Some people think that there is a “bad day scale” and if someone is off the charts with very serious problems then he doesn’t care about other people’s mundane problems.  While no one likes a drama queen, if you are truly friends with someone, then her joy is your joy and her pain is your pain.  Just because your friend is seriously ill and needs your support doesn’t mean that she can’t support you as well.  And sometimes hearing about someone else’s life can offer an escape from the monotony of a long-term illness.

8. Let her know that she is loved.  To love and be loved are the greatest gifts in the world.

9. If she has small children, offer to take them on an outing or bring them a fun activity.  Having an ill parent can be very frightening or frustrating to a child and he may not even be able to voice it.  Giving them a distraction and a chance to talk to someone may put their mind at ease.

10.  Let her see that whatever happens, it will be okay.  Feeling like she has no control over her body or her future can make her feel incredibly scared.  People are so much stronger than they seem but sometimes they need to be reminded that no matter what life throws their way there will always be happy moments ahead if they can make it through the hard ones.

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