According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 6 in 10 adults in the U.S. battle chronic illness, while 4 in 10 are battling two or more. When someone has been diagnosed with a chronic illness it can be devastating for him or her. The way in which they have been used to living their life may be about to change, and it can often be very difficult to cope with such a diagnosis – at least for a while. So when that ‘someone’ is a loved one, how can you best support them? Here are three tips for supporting a loved one with a chronic illness.
1. Listen, Listen, Listen
Sometimes you may not have the words to say to help someone who is struggling. It is in these moments that one of the most important things that you can do is to simply listen. Social support not only helps people to cope with their condition, but also can even make a positive difference in the outcome of their health.
Listening allows the other person the opportunity to communicate how they are feeling and lets them know that their feelings matter. Listening also allows us better insight into how the other person is doing: are they feeling depressed? Sad? Overwhelmed? By actively listening you can be present, attentive, and helpful.
2. Do Your Research
Another one of the best things that you can do to support your loved one struggling with a chronic illness diagnosis is to obtain a better understanding of what the condition itself. Understanding more about their chronic illness not only helps you to stay informed, but it can also help them should you be able to recognize things such as disease progression, better prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for all that lies ahead, and can modify the way in which you can help given their current needs.
3. When in Doubt, Ask
No matter how hard we may try, we can never truly know what someone else is going through. There is not enough research in the world to be able to put yourself in their shoes. That’s why instead of trying to guess how you can be of assistance, it is sometimes best to just ask: “How can I best help or support you right now?” Asking takes the guesswork out of it and ensures that you are helping them in a manner that they too feel is helpful.
While living with a chronic illness can change many things, it cannot change the fact that those who are doing so are still extremely valuable to society and to those who love them most. Do not lose sight of their individual value – and try not to let them do so either.
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