Helping someone with a chronic illness isn’t always straight forward. So here are just a few suggestions to get you started!
As someone who lives with both mental illness and the chronic illness that comes with it, I can always do with help and support. Especially during flares. However, it’s not always obvious for others to know how to help, nor is it easy to accept. But, whether it’s mental, physical, chronic or temporary injury, there are many ways that we can work together to make healing more accessible. This blog post will discuss some of the best ways to support someone with a chronic illness.
10 Ways ways you can support someone with a chronic illness.
Provide emotional support.
It’s important to remember that chronic illnesses can have a significant impact on someone’s mental health. Providing understanding and empathy is key to helping them cope with their situation. Offer words of encouragement, listen when they want to talk, and help them find resources if needed. In addition, help them find ways to maintain their sense of self-worth, such as pursuing hobbies or engaging in social activities.
Be their advocate when they can’t advocate for themselves.
Quite often those with chronic illness can find it difficult to advocate for themselves. But it’s something we sadly have to become adapt to through practice. There are times, however, when advocating for ourselves isn’t always possible. One such occasion may be a medical emergency. Whether you’re a friend or family member, it’s important to offer support during this time. Ensure their water glass is full, bring them personal belongings and, if possible, speak to medical professionals.
This may be easier for family members than friends due to patient confidentiality. Unless stated, medical professionals may only speak to the next of kin. So, if your loved one wants you to be the point of contact, they will need to state this to their medical team. Likewise, if they’re using any outpatient helplines or services.
Help them to find practical solutions.
There are many practical solutions that can be implemented to help someone overcome a physical condition. Search for local groups and organisations offering support services, provide transportation to medical appointments, cook meals for them if they’re unable to do so themselves, and offer assistance with tasks such as grocery shopping and cleaning the house.
Encourage healthy lifestyle habits.
It’s important for those struggling with a physical condition to stay active and eat right; these habits can make a big difference in terms of healing time and overall health. Encourage your loved one to stick with an exercise routine and plan healthy meals. Offer to join them in their workouts or take them grocery shopping for nutritious food items.
Give validation when needed.
Validation is such an important part of supporting someone with any illness, be it a chronic illness or mental illness. It shows us that you believe in our needs, listen to our concerns and want to help. The sad thing about mental and chronic illnesses is the lack of validation from both society and medical care. I’ve heard countless stories of people being dismissed by their GP or consultant. And sadly I’ve been on the other end of such dismissal about my own invisible illnesses.
It’s important that you break down the stigma and misconceptions, and show your support through appropriate means.
- Validation is saying something like “I understand this can be debilitating for you and I can’t even imagine what you’re going through. But I’m here to support you.”
- Validation isn’t belittling their issues with ‘it’ll be fine‘ or ‘you’re overreacting.’ This is ableist and only deepens feelings of shame and misunderstanding.
Allow them to help you too.
A lot of us hate feeling needy. It makes us feel like a burden to others and incapable of looking after ourselves. Sadly, with certain chronic illnesses, relying on others is a part of life. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t fit or don’t want to help you too. Even during my darkest moments I still wanted to be there for those who were helping me. And, sometimes, even those who weren’t.
Allow your loved one to help you when they offer it. But be realistic if you’re making requests. Be aware of their limitations and ask within reason. For example, you wouldn’t ask your friend with chronic back pain to help you move furniture. But you might ask them to help you choose a replacement.
Facilitate access to medical care where possible.
Having access to quality medical care is critical for aiding the recovery of a physical condition. Help your loved one make appointments with the appropriate specialists, understand their diagnosis and treatment options, and keep track of all medications being taken. Additionally, research any alternative treatments that may be beneficial.
Educate yourself on their chronic illness.
The more you know about the physical condition your loved one is dealing with, the better prepared you’ll be to help them. Please read up on the situation, speak to their medical providers, and attend support groups or seminars that focus on the subject. This way, you can provide accurate information and understanding when needed.
Get professional support.
If the situation becomes overwhelming, feel free to seek professional help. Seek out a counsellor or therapist who specialises in helping people deal with physical conditions; you may find that someone with knowledge regarding stl and an understanding of the situation of the person is better equipped to provide meaningful help and support along the way. Reaching out for help is often the first step on the road to recovery.
In conclusion, providing emotional support, finding practical solutions, encouraging healthy lifestyle habits, facilitating access to medical care, educating yourself and getting professional support can all help someone who is dealing with a physical condition. Remember that healing takes time, but working together can make it easier.
Don’t allow their chronic illness to define them.
Your loved one is a person beyond their chronic or mental illness. Much like your job doesn’t define you, nor does their health. They have unique personalities, hobbies, talents and dreams beyond their illness. While you want to be there to support them in their needs, you also want to treat them like a person. A whole person! And not just someone suffering from a long-term illness. Be aware of your language, tone, and internalised ablism, something that we all carry to an extent.
Have you any other ways you could support someone with a chronic illness?
Perhaps you live with a chronic illness and would like people to know how to better support you. I’d love to hear from you in the comments.