Chronic illness has touched all our lives in one capacity or another. Whether it’s a family member, close friend, a coworker, or neighbor affected by chronic illness, we want to lend a hand; it’s our nature to nurture. However, unlike illnesses that come and go, helping someone suffering from a chronic illness often requires a different approach and perhaps an enlightened perspective.
- Don’t Wait to be Asked
We don’t stop being proud because we’re ill. Not everyone is comfortable asking for help, or accepting it, even when we truly need it. Don’t wait in the wings for them to ask; step up, offer, and keep offering. Let them know the offer to be of assistance isn’t just an empty gesture or a one-time extension of a helping hand.
- It Doesn’t Always Have to be about Their Illness
Simply put, chronically ill patients know there isn’t a cure. Help them achieve some normalcy by having everyday conversations. When someone has a chronic illness, their whole life revolves around it. At times run-of-the-mill topics of discussion can be a much-needed change of pace. Don’t let the conversation always lead back to their illness. If and when they want to talk about their health, they will.
- Extend Help to the Helpers
Insurance would pay for 100 percent of care in a perfect world. However, 24/7 care for chronically ill patients isn’t the case in many situations. Often, caring for the patient is a family member, good friend, or close neighbor who has taken on the task. Offer a respite to the often-overlooked caregivers. Caring for a patient can be both physically demanding and mentally draining. Step in, even for a couple of hours, and give them a much-needed break to recharge.
- Taking Cues, Not Taking Over
Listen to the patient. Even if the patient is not entirely coherent, let them speak. It’s easy to dismiss what we perceive as ramblings often associated with their disease. We want to take over or direct the conversation, thinking we’re helping them form their thoughts when ultimately we’re adding to the confusion.
- Understanding the Illness
Understanding what a sufferer is experiencing when dealing with a chronic illness is more significant than you think. Being informed helps you understand the progression of a disease and what to do to help. At the same time, it lets the patient know you are genuinely concerned for their health and well-being. Many websites regarding chronic diseases provide valuable information on living with and understanding the disease, research, charity functions, and support.
- Suggest Good Mental Health
A person with a chronic illness often suffers from depression. Yet, the mental well-being of someone suffering from a long-term condition without a present cure gets overlooked by the physician. Even though depression is tricky to broach, suggestions on managing the mental health issues associated with chronic illnesses are often appreciated because the patient is too ashamed or embarrassed to ask.
- Don’t Give Up
Chronic illness means chronic pain. We all know pain makes us feel irritable, angry, and less than friendly. When company or help gets rebuffed, don’t take it personally. Instead, come up with some new and unique ways to help them cope with the ongoing pain and discomfort. One way is to purchase a few mobile apps to help provide pain-relieving tips on the go or create a pain relief gift basket that includes products and services to help them cope.