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Day 18: How to care for someone with an illness

What a big topic! Caring for someone with an illness requires strength, compassion, and patience. From what I can tell, information for friends and family is lacking. Here are a few basic tips, but this is by no means a comprehensive list. Today I’ll go with 10 bits of general advice for chronic illness newbies and veterans alike.

  1. Please don’t expect us to pretend we’re completely healthy all the time.
  2. Never assume we are exaggerating pain. We are all trying to cope the best we can.
  3. When you’re not sure how you can help, ask.
  4. If you’re uncomfortable and you’re not sure what to say, just be present or accessible. Isolation makes the whole situation worse, so simple presence means more than you might think.
  5. Distractions can be so lovely. Providing spontaneous opportunities for stress relief is one of the sweetest things a friend can do.
  6. Be flexible with plans! And do NOT make fun of us for being tired.
  7. Before going out to eat or planning a party menu, ask about current dietary restrictions.
  8. Sometimes we can really use some help researching and shopping. Offering to sift through online resources or assist with errands are great ways to make our lives easier when we’re struggling.
  9. If you’re curious about something illness-related, try not to be too pushy about it, and give us time to process our thoughts. Here’s an example of a polite way to start your question: “If you don’t mind my asking…”
  10. Investigate on your own. If you’d like to gain some insight, read stories of others with similar health conditions and remember that while everyone is different, some common social issues come up frequently.

A dear friend’s funny, sweet gesture before surgery: the gift of Ostomy Puppy! Little notes or gifts are wonderful for everyone, but they are especially lovely when stress relief is sorely needed.

Since this is National Health Blog Posting Month and, I hope you’ll check out some posts from other bloggers (with various physical issues) on this topic:

Forward is a Pace: So, Your Loved One Has IBD, What I Wish You Knew

A Guy with Crohns

Ali on the Run: A Few Things You Should Know About Crohn’s Disease

Oak Park Behavioral Medicine: Advice for Caregivers

Keeping Things Inside is Bad for My Health: Advice for Caregivers

Life as a Zebra: Let’s Hear it for the Caretakers

Chronically Crafty

Sometimes it is Lupus: If you Love a Lupie

Life with DisAbilities

For IBD-specific information, The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) has a few educational resources on their website, which is full of goodies like these: Guide for teachers and other school personnel, and Guide for parents and caregivers.

p.s. As always, dear readers, feel free to add anything helpful you’ve seen for friends and loved ones.

4 comments on “Day 18: How to care for someone with an illness

  1. What an insightful and well thought out post…thank you! And WOW…I have never seen that stuffed animal before. Such a great idea : ) Hope you’re feeling okay!

  2. I really liked this. I could relate to it 100%. I think you were actually very diplomatic and polite. I’ve had Crohns for 8 years and had 2 bowel resections. I feel tired all the time and struggle through life, but you just keep your head up and keep trying to live a normal life. I’ve been reading lots of blogs as I was thinking of starting my own and this is the first one I’ve connected with enough to comment on :) Thanks

    • Hi Karen,
      Thanks for commenting! I like hearing from people. And if you’d like to chat sometime, my email is partiallyunstuffed@gmail.com. If you do decide to take up blogging, check out my awesome friends listed on the links portion of this site. You’ll find some great examples of various writing styles and hopefully you’ll also find a few more you connect with!

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