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What You Should Know If Your Loved One Suffers From a Chronic Illness

By Christian Worstell | Sept 7, 2019 |

Chronic illness can be a hard pill to swallow. People tend not to talk about how to cope or how to help those we love cope.


If a friend or family member opens up to you about their chronic illness, you may not know what to say. You may be shocked, confused, and uninformed. But your loved ones could really use your empathy and support during this difficult time, even if you may not know exactly how to be there for them.


A lot of times we fail to recognize the significance of offering support or speaking out about personal issues such as chronic illness with a loved one. However, studies show that family and friends can have a significant positive effect on individuals with chronic illness, so it’s important to make your relationship a priority.


There are many ways to keep your relationship strong with your loved one after learning about chronic illness. And believe it or not, there are a few things individuals with chronic illness wish we knew.


Here are some tips to keep at the forefront of your mind when supporting a loved one with a chronic illness:


Ask, ask, ask

Your loved one may not want to ask for help, so don’t hesitate to offer it.

You may be able to help with meals, car rides, housekeeping, running errands...as much as you feel comfortable with.


Ask your friend or family member how you can help. I emphasize how because you shouldn’t make assumptions. There may be certain things your loved one prefers you don’t help with, and the last thing you want to do is offend your friend or family member. That’s why it’s a good idea to always ask before attempting to assist.


Knowledge

Knowledge is power, and learning about the chronic illness can help ease your fears and provide you with the understanding you need to properly be there for your loved one. Take some time to research their condition so that you can be more helpful, aware and empathetic.


Space & Balance

The effects of chronic illness can consume your loved one. Be there for them, but also be conscious of their personal space. It’s all about finding a healthy balance. Know when to engage and when to withdraw. The best way to know? Just ask.

It may also be a good idea to set up some time each week or month to meet with your friend or family member. That way you both have something consistent to look forward to.


Find Resources

When it comes to chronic illness, it is so important to understand and take advantage of your resources.


For example, counseling is a great resource for both you and your loved one. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, specifically, can teach you coping skills. You can also get involved in a local support group or a church small group. It is also important to plan ahead when it comes to helping a loved one manage the expenses of their chronic illness. Do your research and plan ahead so you know all of your options. If your loved one is eligible for Medicare, have them look into a Special Needs Plan specifically designed for certain chronic illnesses.

If you’re feeling extremely overwhelmed, consider hiring a financial planner who has experience in managing chronic illnesses.


Don’t Overtalk About It

This one may be difficult because your thoughts are probably running a mile a minute, but it's important to remember that your loved may not always want to talk about their illness.

On the flip side, don’t avoid the subject altogether. Sometimes, we avoid things not because we don’t care, but because we don’t know how to address something. You want to make sure your friend or family member knows you care.


Take Care of Yourself Too

As a caregiver, it’s important to take care of yourself also. Familiarize yourself with the symptoms of caregiver burnout and make your mental health a priority during this difficult time as well. Discover new hobbies, exercise or make new friends. These are all great ways to help fight stress and depression.


Keep these tips in mind and remember to make your health a priority so that you can be the best version of yourself for your loved one.


Author Bio: Christian Worstell is a health and lifestyle writer living in Raleigh, NC.

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