Whether a friend or a family member has a chronic illness, you do want to be supportive and encourage them the right way. But unfortunately, most people have no idea what to do, what to say or where to start from. There are certain things you should do, as well as things you should never mention. So, what are the do’s and don’ts when a loved one is diagnosed with a chronic illness?
Do – Listen to Their Stories and Be Supportive
When a sufferer reaches out to a loved one, they often have to handle judgment or unsolicited advice. Do they really need it? What happens when the conversation turns around and becomes about you? Pay extra attention to how you turn things around. Instead, just listen, nod, agree and encourage. Avoid using examples from your own life because that means making the conversation about yourself. Be supportive and encourage them for the fight they have to go through.
When it comes to support, this is a do and a don’t. Support and never judge. Someone with a chronic disease will have to make some adjustments to their lifestyle. They might need to follow a special diet or avoid doing particular things. You have probably taken your time to learn about the affection, so you might know what is good or bad. From this point of view, you will need to support their new lifestyle. Bring in a healthy snack, rather than a bag of crisps. Take the stairs with them and forget about the lift.
Such a change is like dieting. They will mess it up every once in a while. It is perfectly normal. But how does it help if you dwell on it? Instead, just let it go and move on to better choices in the future.
Do – Be Around and Flexible
There are no doubts about it – we live in a digital age. The physical presence is slowly overtaken by the online presence. With all these, when you have a friend with a chronic affection, you will need to go back the old fashioned way. Your friend spends lots of time traveling for infusions, appointments, tests and so on. They often go by themselves. From this point of view, having company every once in a while can make the difference. You tell them that they are not alone. Plus, you can have a coffee or a tea once the appointment is over and catch up a bit.
If you are like most people, you will come over, visit and encourage the sufferer as soon as they are diagnosed with a chronic disease. After a few months, plenty of friends tend to fade away. It might hurt them at first, yet they will realize that things have changed. They can no longer go out for drinks, hiking or dancing. So, what do you do then? Just be flexible instead. Planning a night out with friends? Thinking to call your special friend over? Maybe they feel bad or they do not have the energy to do it. Be flexible and spend the night in – brings some cakes or drinks over. All in all, just adjust the plan based on their mood.
Don’t – Show Pity
Life for someone with a chronic disease can be quite hard. It is a new lifestyle and no longer a short term treatment. Sometimes, emotions kick in – it is perfectly normal. What plenty of people do (and it is wrong) is show pity. Pity has never helped anyone, but it will make your loved one feel even worse. Instead, try to be encouraging and positive about it.
Everyone could use some words of encouragement. You can be supportive by being positive, clearing self talk and losing all the chats about yourself. While pity is a bad thing to show, criticism is even worse. Focus on your words before you open your mouth and make sure the conversation goes in the right direction.
Don’t – Find Reasons for the Affection
Even if the reason behind someone’s illness is obvious, never make it clear for them. Never tell them that they are sick because they work too hard or sleep too little. How do you know that? People fill up their lives as best as they can with things that they have to do and things that they want to do. Lots of people actually love working or volunteering. It is not like they break rocks with a hammer in a Venezuelan coal mine.
Generally speaking, try to avoid telling your friend what they need to do or why they are in this situation. It is often perceived as criticism and will not go well, especially as they may already be down.
Don’t – Make Negatively Friendly Comments about Their Looks
Back in the good old days, you could tell someone they looked bad if you were really close to them. Things are different these days, especially when it comes to someone with a chronic affection. Whether they look tired or they simply do not look like themselves, do not tell them. Have they gained weight? Have they lost weight? Keep it to yourself.
Whatever treatment they are doing, it is clearly affecting their looks and lifestyle. Try to see things from their perspective. They would rather take their medication and survive than try to match your beauty standards. Therefore, instead of making them feel even worse (no matter how close you are to them), stick to other topics that underline encouragement.
As a short final conclusion, living with a chronic illness can be a nightmare. Obviously, it depends on which affection it is. However, good friends and family can make things better for a sufferer. Even if they do not mean to offend, the truth is that not knowing what to say can cause lots of trouble. You might have good intentions, but you might put them out in a negative way that will ruin your relationship. Measure your words before you speak and always put yourself in the patient’s shoes.