Living with a chronic illness can be hugely debilitating and for a lot of people, this brings with it feelings of loneliness and isolation. Not only do chronically ill people face more day to day challenges, but their individual condition could interfere with their ability to take part in activities or socialising.
If you have a friend who is suffering from a chronic illness, then it’s important to be aware of the different ways in which you can support them. However, it’s also important to be aware of the ways in which you can support them, without coming across as patronising.
What a lot of people who are friends with someone with a chronic illness don’t realise is that they are frequently on the receiving end of misplaced bad advice or hurtful comments. Often, this is down to a misunderstanding towards their illness or condition, or ignorance of how debilitating it can really be. With that in mind, here are 3 ways that you can help and support a friend who is living with a chronic illness.
Don’t Be Offended If They Reschedule Plans
If your friend rearranges or reschedules plans at the last minute, it’s important not to take it personally or feel upset. It is very highly likely that you aren’t being shunned in favour of better plans, instead, your friend might just be feeling overly tired or drained. Living with a chronic illness takes a lot of management and self-care and part of that comes with learning to say no sometimes, even to close friends and family.
Remember, only they truly know how they’re feeling, so if they don’t feel up to it, then this can impact further on their wellbeing or condition. As a friend, keep reaching out and extending invites, remembering not to take it personally if it isn’t accepted.
Take Time To Understand Their Condition
Sadly, there are many different chronic illnesses and conditions and each of them is hugely different from one another. If you know what illness or condition your friend is battling, take time to do some research into the condition so that you have some understanding and knowledge of what it is they are dealing with on a daily basis.
If your friend is particularly struggling one day and needs to vent about how they are feeling, then it will make them feel so much better if they can vent to someone who, even slightly, knows and understands what they are going through. This can make your friend feel more understood and comfortable about discussing their condition with you and it is a simple and thoughtful way to show that you care.
You could do some research into the latest news or progresses surrounding their condition, whether it be treatment, new research or even simple ways they can ease pain or discomfort, for example, the fact that Magnesium tablets have been shown to support migraine sufferers, whilst gout drugs have been found to contain an ingredient that could benefit heart disease sufferers.
Sharing this information is a great conversation starter and shows your friend that you really are interested in their condition and want to support them. When bringing the topic up, try to avoid doing so matter-of-factly as this can come across as patronising and belittling and, instead, say something like “I saw this in the news yesterday, what do you think?”.
Ask Them What They Need
Communicating about your friend’s illness can be tricky, as some people don’t like to disclose too much information. But open and honest conversations are important, for your friendship and their personal wellbeing. If they don’t appear to be forthcoming about their needs it could be that they don’t want to burden you or they don’t know what to say in order to be helpful.
Make offers to assist your friend with daily tasks that everyone needs to get done, but what they might struggle to complete on a day to day basis. If you’re passing a pharmacy, message them and ask if they need anything picking up. If they haven’t got the energy to do housework or cook meals, offer pop by after work and see if you can help with some dusting, or see if they’d like to come round for dinner and a catch up during the week.
Asking a friend what they need doesn’t take a lot of effort if you’re doing it anyway, but it can make all the difference to their day and how they feel. Directly asking someone, rather than assuming, how you can help will mean so much more to your friend. Chances are what you think they need will be greatly different from what they actually need.