How to Support a Friend with Chronic Illness
February 17, 2023
Having a chronic illness can be isolating, but having a supportive network of friends makes all the difference. Being there for your friend and being understanding is crucial when it comes to helping them manage their condition. Whether you’re learning more about their diagnosis or simply offering an ear to listen. Here are some tips on how to be a supportive friend when someone you know has been diagnosed with a chronic illness.
Understand that their illness is unpredictable, so don’t be angry when they have to cancel plans or can’t answer your messages right away. There may be days when they feel too unwell to hang out or days when they just need extra time for themselves. Let them know that you understand and that it’s okay for them to take care of themselves first and foremost.
Validating their needs, feelings and concerns as someone with a chronic illness can help them feel a little less alone and misunderstood. Acknowledge and validate their emotions—whether they are feeling sad, scared, frustrated, or overwhelmed—and remind them that their feelings are valid.
Having a chronic illness doesn’t define who your friend is as a person; rather it is just part of who they are now. Be sure to respect them as an individual and never use insensitive language when talking about their condition or referring to them as “the sick one” or anything else like that. They may not always want reminders about their illness either so ask for permission before offering advice or words of support so that you don't inadvertently cause more stress or anxiety for them.
Don’t assume that your friend isn’t in pain or discomfort just because you see them smile or be in a good mood. Listen carefully and be respectful of how each individual is managing their own condition; never judge someone for how well (or not) they seem to be doing at any given time because everyone's journey is different.
Having a chronic illness can be lonely. Invite your friend even if you’re not sure if they can come. It feels good to know that they’re not forgotten and that they are welcome to join if they can; even if they can't make it due to fatigue or other triggers, knowing that you thought about including them will still mean something special nonetheless. Remember though: always check-in with them first before setting any plans in stone because things could change suddenly depending on how well (or not) they are feeling at any given time.
Offer Your Help
Chronic illnesses can often interfere with everyday tasks such as grocery shopping, running errands, doctor's appointments, etc.,so look for ways where you can help out if needed! Even small things like bringing meals over once in a while can make all the difference in helping your friend manage their day-to-day life more easily while living with an unpredictable chronic condition. Ask if there is anything specific that you can do which might ease some burdens off of them; sometimes just being there to listen is enough!
Take Care Of Yourself
Finally, don’t forget to take care of yourself. This makes it easier for you both to maintain your friendship. Let your chronically ill friend be a good friend to you, too.
Supporting friends who have been diagnosed with a chronic illness isn't always easy but making even small efforts will go far! Being understanding, respectful, validating emotions, never assuming anything without asking questions first, inviting them out once in a while (but always checking-in first), offering help when needed—these little steps go a long way into truly supporting someone living with an unpredictable chronic condition on their journey towards better health and wellbeing overall!