10 Things You Can Do to Support Your Chronically Ill Friend
As a girl who has been battling with multiple chronic illnesses for over five years, I know what it’s like to have a very small amount of healthy friends. Sometimes people freak out hearing that you’re sick and are unable to handle the news, which leads the chronically ill person to lose friends in the process. It’s understandable, but incredibly hurtful nonetheless. Thankfully, there are simple ways for able-bodied people without chronic illnesses to support their sick friend that doesn’t take an enormous amount of effort. If you were to do even one of these things every once in a while, I promise you your chronically ill friend will appreciate it and remember it for the rest of their lives.
1. Remember the name of their illness(es).
You don’t have to remember the spelling or anything like that, but remembering what they have is really nice for them to hear. Even if you can’t pronounce it, try sounding it out the best you can and they’ll really appreciate the effort. My mom still doesn’t know all of the names of my illnesses after more than four years, and it drives me nuts. It will make them feel like you’re actually listening to what they’re saying. If it’s a problem for you to remember spelling or something, ask them if there’s a nickname for it (or you guys can create your own code).
2. Don’t call them a drug addict.
Many people who have chronic illnesses have to take a wide variety of pills just to attempt to make it through the day. Thought it might be funny to joke around calling them an addict for popping so many pills at once or having to take so many throughout the day, it can be offensive. Especially since there is such a stigma around prescription drugs and this hardship of getting the drugs in the first place. All they’re trying to do is try to take some of their pain or side effects away.
3. If they don’t have their own account, let them use your Netflix, Hulu, HBO GO, or any other online streaming service.
Considering they are probably spending a ton of time in bed, binge watching TV shows and movies can be calming and pass time. So if you’re already paying for it and you know they don’t have it, offer them to use your password, even if it’s only once in a while!
4. When they inevitably have to cancel plans with you, don’t make them feel horrible about it.
Being chronically ill, your body just does not know how to cooperate like that of a regular, able-bodied person. There will be times where they have to cancel plans super last minute, but don’t make them feel bad about doing it. They can’t control it.
5. Some days, they will push themselves harder than they should to accomplish what needs to be done.
If you notice your chronically ill friend is not looking too well one day, ask them how they’re feeling. They might say they’re fine, but it might actually help them to know that someone is noticing they’re not completely okay.
6. Learn something about their illness.
Literally, all you have to do is punch it into google and learn something about it. It can be something as small as a symptom of it, maybe a treatment type or the kind of illness that it is. Or ask them something about it and actually remember the information! A lot of chronically ill people don’t mind talking about their illness with someone who genuinely wants to hear what they have to say.
7. Offer to help them with doctors appointments once in a while.
Sometimes, they will have to attend a doctors appointment where they won’t be able to drive right after due to a treatment, or they might need a ride to and from the hospital if things get truly bad. Or just offer to go with them, sit in the waiting room just as a sign of support. If you have the time and the means, offer it to them. Even if they don’t take you up on it, at least they’ll feel really good that you offered.
8. Visit them if they’re in the hospital, even if it’s only for a short time.
Those are the times they’ll remember, and they’ll really appreciate that you took the time out of your busy schedule to come visit them during such a hard time for them. If you wanna step it up a notch, bring them something they can do in the hospital, like a game, puzzle, or a deck of cards. Can’t make it to the hospital due to distance? Make an effort to call them on the phone, or set up FaceTime and be there with them remotely for a while so they’re not lonely!
9. Be mindful of your language.
It’s incredibly easy for an able-bodied individual to make offensive comments towards a chronically ill person without intending to do so. Saying something as simple as “but you were fine yesterday, why can’t you go out today?” or “but you look too good to be sick” can really hurt someone’s feelings. We hear it all of the time, but if you’re looking to be a good friend you would at least be conscious of those phrases and try your best not to continue using them in the presence of your friend.
10. Offer to have a lazy day at home with them if they’re not feeling great.
Instead of going out shopping or to the movies, stay at home with them and relax! Throw on some Netflix, cuddle up in a ton of blankets, maybe make a point to bring over some food or order in for the day (or a bottle of wine if you’re of age and they can drink on their meds). You can have an awesome time just hanging out at home rather than going out. Plus you can save a little money too! They’ll really appreciate having someone to rest with at home, even if it’s once in a while.