Small Ways You Can Support the Chronically Ill People in Your Life
Show your chronically ill loved ones just how much you care!
I've been chronically ill for more than 10 years now. During that time, many people have come in and out of my life, but those that have remained have something in common: they have all taken the time to learn about my needs as a chronically ill person and respect them.
It can be a hard adjustment to figure out how best to care for a chronically ill loved one. It will likely be filled with trial and error and you'll probably make mistakes as you navigate new waters. However, your loved one will really appreciate the effort you put forth!
1. Research their illness
One of the kindest things you can do for a chronically ill person you care about is to take the time and research what they're going through. Not only does it that you care about them, but it will also help you figure out how you can best accommodate them in the future. Living with chronic illness means getting used to living in an inaccessible world, but knowing that you actively want to accommodate them will truly mean the world.
2. Make flexible plans
Many chronic illnesses are accompanied with horrible symptoms that might cause someone to be unable to leave the house or to do anything active. It took me years to feel less guilty about needing to cancel or change plans last minute and it's likely your loved one feels guilty about it too. Make sure they know that you prioritize their health over any plans you had. You could even offer to watch movies with them instead. They might not be up for it, but they will appreciate your willingness to consider their needs.
3. Be willing to just listen
Sometimes it can be really hard to just sit back and listen without interjecting, but your loved one will really appreciate the fact that you let them just vent. If you don't the same illness they do, or even a similar condition, it might not be helpful for them to hear about how you're tired because of finals while they suffer from chronic fatigue. That doesn't mean your relationship should become all about them and their needs either, just that it is important to remember that their needs are different.
4. Ask rather than assume
Many people instinctively want to help, but sometimes what you think of as help isn't actually helpful to your loved one or could even do more harm than good. If you truly want to help them, ask what you can do for them instead of just assuming they need something.
5. Toss your platitudes in the trash
Platitudes such as "at least you don't have cancer" or "you could have worse" don't help anyone. Your intention might be to make them feel better, but it probably won't. It's never made me feel better when someone has said that to me. Instead, it only made me question why I felt so terrible if things could be worse. If you're unsure of what to say to them, something as simple as "thank you for telling me" or "I can't relate to that, but that sounds like it sucks" are better choice.
6. Remember it isn't about you
Obviously all relationships are two-way streets and they need to put in the work too, but as far as their illness is concerned, it isn't about you. It may be heard to hear, especially because you care about them a lot, but you can't fix them and you can't heal them. You can be there for them though, which can make all the difference.