33 Ways You Can Help a Chronically Ill Family Member

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No one can understand what a chronically ill person is going through, not even someone else with a chronic illness. There are some things, though, that family members can do to make their lives easier. In this post, you will find 33 ways you can help a chronically ill family member.

As a Chronically Ill Person, How Can a Family Member Help You?

I recently asked a question on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, “As a chronically ill person, how can a family member help you?”, in the hopes of helping family members to understand what they can do for their chronically ill family member. Here are the responses I got:

  • “Inviting me to family events and making sure that they are accessible for me: offering to pick me up, or making sure there’s a quiet space I can rest in. Thinking about my needs and allowing for them. If I need to cancel, being understanding about it.”
  • “Playing with Legos, those little, coloured building blocks, can be more than just a game. Lego therapy can help with the symptoms of MS and some other neurological diseases.” See this post on The MS Wire for more information on Lego therapy.
  • “By just being there. Sometimes they don’t need to do anything apart from be there. On a practical level, cook, shop and give any physical help needed. My husband is great at trying to keep my spirits up. He tries to make me laugh and when I am feeling terrible, a wee bit of laughter can help me.”
  • “Recognise that everyone needs downtime, especially when chronically ill… Boundaries are for loved ones too!”
  • “Remembering my limitations such as I can’t stand still or lift things above my head.”
  • “Don’t always assume that a person needs help… but be there when they do! Sounds contrary but it’s so important to feel independent when you are able but know there is support when necessary.”
  • “Things I wish my family accepted: Support and Positivity vs Pity and Resistance. I am not my illness but it is a part of me, so I have to go at the pace my body allows. My progress on goals may be slow but don’t lose faith in the chronically ill.”
  • “Just be understanding! That’s all we ask. Ask us how we are doing and listen, like really listen. If we need help, we will ask but not those who we feel don’t believe or support us. It’s not that much really.”
Just be understanding! That's all we ask. Ask us how we are doing and listen, like really listen. If we need help, we will ask but not those who we feel don't believe or support us. It's not that much really. Click To Tweet
  • “For my parents, it would be not expecting me to deal with their emotional responses to my illness. I don’t mind talking but I haven’t got the energy to be the one reassuring them.”
  • “Just because we are all in the same house, I still get lonely. I hate television.”
  • “Offering to do laundry, dishes, or babysit when you’re having a bad flare.“
  • ”My parents help me by going to appointments with me, providing me food, rubbing my back to comfort me, helping me clean the house, taking care of my dogs. Oh and they help me garden, take care of the yard, odd jobs and repairs around the house.”
  • “Definitely doing laundry. I usually start a load and they have to finish it. Also, they let me sit on the love seat in the living room so that I can lay down with my feet up higher than my heart.”
  • “Very important to always have your advocate with you at doctors appointments or anything where the patient can get confused or taken advantage of. Spend time doing anything that brings joy to the patient. Be able to talk honestly about situations/condition.”
  • ”Besides read my mind? Extra hugs from my grandchild, a little push to get moving (but understanding and help when I just can’t), back scratches, help with planning and making healthy, ready-to-eat food.”
  • “It is very helpful when I drop something that my partner reaches for it and reminds/assures me that it is *not* as difficult for him to move around as for me. I sometimes err on the side of “everyone hurts or struggles like I do” which keeps me from reaching out. I’d like to add that I am very new to accepting and holding compassion for my limitations, which is a reason why I appreciate anticipatory help from folks who are aware of my difficulties.”
  • “Definitely listening and being understanding! Keeping limitations in mind when making plans, being accommodating when pain or fatigue flares up, etc.”
  • “Getting me vitamins to help me stay healthy during my downswings, making sure to check in once a day.”
  • “I would want someone to make me dinner now and then when I’m really tired at the end of the day.”
  • “The biggest help to me is honestly letting me use my service dog, and not making a big deal out of it when I use other aids. Most of the time I use nothing despite needing them because there’s such a big fuss over it all.”
The biggest help to me is honestly letting me use my service dog, and not making a big deal out of it when I use other aids. Most of the time I use nothing despite needing them because there's such a big fuss over it all. Click To Tweet
  • “Things my mum does that are invaluable are the cooking/cleaning/laundry/taking me places I need to go and spending time with me. She also reminds me of appointments/things I need to do and generally cares for me. I would say other helpful things are understanding that you’re not going to get for a long time (or ever) so things like how are you doing today/now as opposed to are you better etc. Respecting boundaries and understanding that sometimes I’m too tired/fatigued/sensitive to noise to spend time with you or may have to cancel last moment it’s never personal. Also including/inviting me to things even if I can’t go makes me feel better as I’m still their friend but our friendship will (and has had to) change, so I can’t come out often but you can come to me, I still love to chat via WhatsApp or occasional phone calls. Also, cooking some meals that can go in the freezer/fridge and are easy to reheat (if you can) is very helpful. Oh, also going to the doctors with me to sit quietly while I speak but listen to what they say (as sometimes I can misunderstand stuff) and remind me if there’s anything I’ve forgotten, an extra brain is always helpful. Lastly, giving me time to finish my sentences (and not mock if I get the wrong word unless I’m laughing) and listening to what I’m actually saying not what they think I am!”
  • “Reassuring me that they are okay with me needing a lot of help. Understanding that I don’t look ill and you can’t always see pain on my face/body language. And general daily help – hot water bottles, cooking, cleaning.”
  • ”Not making me feel weird or abnormal for having to lay down or get an ice pack or bursting into tears. Also, ignoring me if I gasp or make a weird noise. I know that sounds strange, but it helps that my husband understands that it’s just a back spasm or similar, and hearing “are you ok?” all the time just makes me feel worse. He knows I’ll ask if I need help with something.”
  • ”To reassure me that no matter how sick I am that I am going to be okay and that my family is going to be by my side the whole entire time supporting me.”
  • ”Just to understand and be there for me. And to not give up on asking me out to places. I feel like friends and family get sick of asking if I want to do things because I’m almost always hurting. Sometimes that’s not the case, you may catch me on a good day. But it sucks worse to see everyone has gone out and no one asked at all.”
  • ”By accepting that I have a chronic illness, understanding that it needs managing, there is no magic cure and it’s not all in my head.”
  • ”Providing a meal once a week would be a huge help to me. Offering to help with my children as needed. Most importantly, seeking to understand my illnesses (know what they’re called and a few of the key symptoms). There are so many people in my life who couldn’t even tel you what I have.”
  • ”Be there for me, no matter what.”
Be there for me, no matter what. Click To Tweet
  • ”Just being there to chat your worries over with.”
  • ”Bring dinners they have made ready to be frozen for bad days. Help me declutter or offer to help a little with housework or just get me out the house.”
  • ”Definitely avoiding the comparison trap. For example, my husband is crazy good at time management and can get so much done in a day. I always feel bad seeing how hard he works and thinking I’m not doing enough. He’s finally learned what I am capable of on my good and bad days and he’s gotten really good at giving me some perspective and support when I feel like I’m not doing enough.”
  • ”Just emotionally validating our emotions and symptoms…sometimes we just need support and not advice.”
  • ”I currently have 3 young adult kids at home (17-23 yrs) and I would love for them to just look around the house and actually see some of the ordinary jobs that need doing (yes laundry, vacuuming, feeding the dog etc) rather than me having to ask! I feel like such a nag…..But mostly just being there when the pain is bad or I have a fall – understanding that a dislocation needs support rather than panic,and hubby gives a pretty good massage too!!”
But mostly just being there when the pain is bad or I have a fall - understanding that a dislocation needs support rather than panic Click To Tweet

It’s All About Understanding

One thing that has cropped up a lot in the replies is ‘understanding’. Everyone has limits, but a chronically ill person will probably have a lot more than a healthy person. By knowing a persons’ limits, you can help them be more involved in events and activities without causing flare-ups. You can also know when they need help. Remember to ask if they want some help, though, instead of just jumping in and helping. Sometimes we want to be independent and do things ourselves.

Everyone has limits, but a chronically ill person will probably have a lot more than a healthy person. By knowing a persons' limits, you can help them be more involved in events and activities without causing flare-ups. Click To Tweet

If you loved this post (and I’m SURE you did, considering you’re reading this), you NEED to check out my eBook 10 Things You Need to Know About Living with Chronic Illness!

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