How to Support Someone With a Chronic Disease

Support Someone With a Chronic Disease

When life deals someone a bad card, it can be difficult to know how to respond. Whether this person is a friend, family member or colleague, you should be respectful of the shock they may experience or the changes the new diagnosis may bring to their life. Although it may feel awkward, many patients will tell you that they would rather acknowledge their situation and move on than pretend it doesn’t exist. Regardless of your relationship with them, any show of support will surely be appreciated.

Understand Their Symptoms

Unless you have faced a similar medical condition personally, you may not be able to completely grasp how the other person is feeling. Do not assume that because you have heard of their condition, you know what it means. Instead, ask questions and educate yourself. For example, if a friend was born with cystic fibrosis, you should be cognizant of the fact that they cannot sit around a campfire because the damage to their lungs will make it hard to breathe. A more noticeable instance is leukemia bruising that results from that sort of cancer. While it is true that everyone gets bumps and scrapes, it may be insensitive to point out marks that grow or do not go away easily. Making modifications to the activities you do together or just accepting that they make look different at times can help your friend or relative feel welcomed.

Recognize the Side Effects of Treatments

A large portion of the general population may recognize that nausea and hair loss are associated with chemotherapy. Fewer might be aware that weight gain and drops in blood sugar that can lead to dizziness are common effects of diabetes medicines. One way to learn more about what you should expect is to join a local group or online support program for caregivers that can teach you strategies and offer assistance. It does not matter if you are a sibling, parent or co-worker, if you are regularly involved with a person who suffers from a recurring illness, you have to pay attention to your needs as well as theirs. 

Bring Compassion, Not Pity

A person with special needs as a result of a medical condition could benefit from your ability to see their struggles and work with them through the ordeal. Being compassionate means being mindful of the highs and lows they meet, but not feeling sorry for them to the point that it becomes an excuse. It can be a challenge to walk this line. At the same time, take solace knowing you are an active part of their treatment and rehabilitation. It can be particularly complicated when the other person is inflicted with something such as chronic fatigue syndrome which manifests itself as depression, tiredness and aching because those are less visible signs of a flare-up.

Make Time to Laugh

It may not be an official prescription, but there is much evidence to reinforce the need for laughter in life. Chronic diseases will have peaks and valleys. There will be stretches of times when the sufferer may be in remission or the symptoms may be mild. During these times you might think everything is back to normal, but in a flash, the worst aspects of the illness can return. Since you cannot change what is beyond your control, you can make a conscious choice to be a positive presence. There are so many reasons why laughing is good. To begin, it can take your mind off of whatever is wrong and help you to focus your attention elsewhere. In addition, it can actually bring more oxygen into your system and therefore stimulate heart and brain activity. Finally, the mood boost from a solid chuckle can last well beyond the initial joke.

Do the Unexpected

If you have tried all of the above and still want to do more, consider a fun surprise. You do not need to drop a bombshell, but a small gift of flowers or popping by with a premade meal can brighten the day and ease the burden. Doing the dishes or any other task or chore may also provide someone with a few extra minutes of valuable downtime.

None enjoys feeling under the weather. If the doctor says the road ahead is a long one, it is best to know there is a friend along for the ride.

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