Support for the Patient During a Serious Illness:

Family/Friend Perspective

(Written by a Guest Author)

Whether your loved one or friend is going through a serious change in their life or they are confronted with a life-changing illness, it is essential that you are there for them. If someone is suffering, though, it can be hard to know how best to support them. When do you become invasive and when are you leaving them alone too much? If someone you care about is going through a rough time and dealing with a possibly life threatening illness, consider what you can do.

Play It By Ear
Everyone reacts to stress differently. Some people need to proceed just as they were before, and they will want you to distract them. Some people revel in dark humor. No matter how your friend or loved one decides to cope, help them and join in. When people say that you should be there for your friend, this means that you need to consider what that really means to the friend in question.

Food and Lots of It
If you can cook, this is the perfect time to show it off. People who are sick or going through some kind of loss are often too tired to cook good things for themselves. They may find that they order out a great deal or that they are limited to what they can prepare quickly. Make something like a casserole or a lasagna, which can be reheated often and easily. A little bit of food goes a long way.

Come Over and Pitch In
Don’t wait for the person in question to ask. If you are over and visiting and you see a chore that needs to be done, simply do it. From washing dishes to folding clothes, many people who are sick fall behind on chores. Even a simple chore can make a huge difference to their quality of life, and it is a simple thing to do.

Talk When They Want to Talk
When people are facing a life threatening disease or dealing with the death of a loved one, they are often hampered by the awkwardness of their friends. Because no one wants to say the wrong thing, nothing gets said at all, and this makes the person feel even more upset. If the person you love wants to talk, step up and let them talk. You need to be there during the toughest times, whether they're writing up obituaries or receiving diagnoses, in case they need someone to listen to and reassure them. Warn them that you might be awkward or that you might say the wrong thing, but let them know that you will listen to them from beginning to end. 

Offer to Drive
Mobility is one of the first things that a sick person misses. They may be too tired to drive and that means that a lot of errands get put off. Whether they need to head to a doctor’s appointment or they might simply need to head to the store, offer a lift. Not only do you get to help them out, you get the pleasure of their company.

Take a moment to think about how you can help a person you know get through a rough time. There are actually plenty of ways for you to pitch in.

This page was last updated on May 2, 2012.

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