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Illness and injury are an inevitable fact of life and will eventually affect someone you love. And over the past few years, I have experienced health crises as a friend, primary caregiver, and more recently as a patient myself.
Having friends and family reach out to offer their love and support is probably the only good thing about getting through these tough times. And no matter how they supported us, whether it was recording texts, dropping off meals, or helping us argue with our kids, it helped.
But if you’re the friend who wants to support someone, it can be difficult (but extremely important) to figure out how to do it. “I think people don’t know how to help a friend through an illness anymore because of the fear and uncertainty that comes with learning that someone you care about is living with an illness,” says Raydale. Soman, LCSW, senior psychotherapist at Tate Psychotherapy in New York who specializes in helping people with chronic illnesses. “When you have a chronic illness, having good support from others is crucial. A strong social support network can have a positive impact on treatment adherence and recovery.”
So if you have a loved one who is suffering from an illness or injury right now, don’t be afraid to reach out and offer your support. If you don’t know how to help, check out these tips to help you find the most effective ways to show you care and help your friend through the toughest times.
Understand how they feel
It is often very helpful to be there as a sounding board for them to share their feelings. “Make sure you don’t minimize and invalidate the person’s experience with default responses that might be too positive such as ‘It’s going to be fine’ or ‘Stay positive,'” suggests Soman. “We don’t want to invalidate the person’s feelings or make them feel like they are overwhelming us with their truth about the impact of the disease on their life.”
Be specific about how you want to help
The “we’re here for whatever you need” offers were so lovely. But honestly, I felt like I was imposing asking them to walk my dog or pick up my prescriptions at the pharmacy. (And so I didn’t ask.)
Your best bet? Think about the impact of the recovery on their lives, then come up with something specific: “I’d like to drive your kids to all their activities this week,” “Let me come and do your laundry for you,” or ” I would love to drop off a few books for you to enjoy while you recover.” They are more likely to accept the offer from you.
Offer to be the resource person
My husband’s phone had been ringing since the day of my surgery, people contacted him to see how I was doing. In retrospect, it would have been great to have everyone connected with someone else, so they could focus more on managing our family and helping me recover.
If you are a communicator by nature, enter contact details for everyone who needs to be in the know, or post updates on social media and tag the patient so you can keep everyone in their lives in the loop .
Take the time to read about their disease
Many of my loved ones took the time to learn more about my illness, so they could ask key questions and I didn’t have to explain why I was worried or overjoyed as the test results were coming in.
“Show interest and support their journey by doing your own research into their diagnosis,” Soman says. “You can do a Google search for the disease and try reading a few articles about what it’s like to live with the disease. This will show your loved one that you care about them and want to know about the impact about his life—and it will also save them from having to repeat important aspects of the disease.”
Speed up a meal train
I’m not going to lie – the meal train my friend coordinated (she used mealtrain.com) was a real lifesaver, and I definitely missed the daily deliveries when it was over.
If you host or attend, be sure to get detailed information about the family’s food preferences, allergies and limitations, to ensure they enjoy every bite. (And don’t forget to keep an eye out for what everyone around you is dropping, so you don’t serve them lasagna five days in a row.)
Think practical when it comes to gifts
Nobody will refuse flowers, balloons, sweets and other goodies, believe me. But often the best gifts are a little more useful. Think ultra-soft pajamas or sheets, a bed tray, or even an ultra-long charger cord that will reach their smartphone or tablet across the room. (We have a large list of some gifts for the sick or injured to give you some inspiration.)
Check what is allowed
For many illnesses and post-surgical recoveries, there may be limits to what they can eat or even have at home, or the side effects of their treatment may make certain foods unappetizing. (I wasn’t allowed flowers during my recovery and still can’t eat grapefruit due to drug interactions.)
Checking to see if something is off limits will help ensure that your bounty doesn’t go to waste.
Text, don’t call
Your friend can nap at odd hours, and texting is less likely to disrupt his well-deserved rest. And texting also allows your friend to text back when they feel like it, even if it’s a few days later.
Consider texting a simple “I’m thinking of you” or “I hope you’re feeling better” rather than a simple “How are you?” which may prompt them to respond.
Ask about something other than their health
Of course, you want to know the latest news on their health, and they will be touched that you are worried about them. But your friend may appreciate a break from talking about treatments and doctor visits, so don’t be afraid to move on after you find out how he’s doing. Any opportunity to discuss something more normal or even frivolous, like their kids or their latest binge watch, will certainly be welcome.
Also don’t forget the keeper
Life can be hard enough to handle when everyone is feeling good, but when one able-bodied adult is out of commission and the other has to take on all the family chores and even help take care of their partner, it can certainly bother them. exhaust. And they may even be so overwhelmed that they can’t even ask for help.
This happened when I was caring for my husband, who needed IVs in the middle of the night and couldn’t walk, while I was also juggling our home and family obligations and my job at full-time. I’ll never forget when one of my dearest friends texted me offering to bring me some meals – and how that kind gesture (and his amazing vegetable soup) gave me the thumb I needed to pass the rest of my husband. recovery.
Be there for them long term
Soman says many of her clients have found that their friends are there for them for the first six weeks, but often disappear over time. “The frequency of calls, texts and visits decreases, and the family or friend facing the health crisis feels alone and abandoned,” says Soman. “Your gestures don’t have to be grand, and your loved one doesn’t wait for you to fix the situation. A small gesture like a text message or a phone call to your loved one is just enough to make them feel supported, seen. , and maybe even provide some relief and distraction.”