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.
- Please don’t expect us to pretend we’re completely healthy all the time.
- Never assume we are exaggerating pain. We are all trying to cope the best we can.
- When you’re not sure how you can help, ask.
- 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.
- Distractions can be so lovely. Providing spontaneous opportunities for stress relief is one of the sweetest things a friend can do.
- Be flexible with plans! And do NOT make fun of us for being tired.
- Before going out to eat or planning a party menu, ask about current dietary restrictions.
- 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.
- 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…”
- 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.
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:
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
Sometimes it is Lupus: If you Love a Lupie
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.