Supporting a Friend Who has a Chronic/Life Threatening Condition
It can be difficult to know how to be supportive of a friend who has been diagnosed with a very serious chronic or life threatening condition.
How You Can Help
• Drive them to and from medical appointments
• Visit them in the hospital
• Watch their children, pick them up from school, have them visit you for the weekend
• Clean their house, take out the garbage, and offer to do other chores-particularly the seasonal ones that they may have neither the energy nor time to do
• Help take care of pets
• Make a meal, grocery shop
• Do something that is “normal” that doesn’t have anything to do with their illness, such as seeing a movie, going to a museum or concert.
• Tell them you are sorry
• Validate feelings
• Respect how they choose to manage their disease
• Offer advice only when asked
• Learn about their condition
• Listen, listen, listen
• Call and see how they are doing
• Talk about what they want to talk about
Things to avoid saying
• Everything’s going to be all right
• Don’t worry, feel sad or feel guilty
• Think of the good times
• I know how you feel
If you accompany them to a medical appointment, be a friend with a pen
• Before the visit, ask the friend what concerns or questions they might have. Write them down. Suggest that if they forget to ask the questions, you could either remind them, or state the questions yourself. Only ask questions if your friend has given you permission.
• Find out before going in the office if your friend is comfortable with you being there during a physical exam.
• Take notes about what the medical provider is saying, and how they are responding to your patient’s questions. Be objective. Write what the care provider is saying, not what you or your friend want to hear.
• Keep quiet during the visit, only making a comment if you think something is not clear to your friend, or to ask a question that your friend may have forgotten.
• After the visit, your friend may not want to discuss what the doctor said. Don’t push it. Wait a few days and then see if they are able to discuss what happened.
• Your perception of what the provider said, and your friends may be completely different. It doesn’t mean that either of you are right or wrong.
• Give your notes to your friend and go over them when you both have time to discuss the visit. Understand that your friend’s priorities may be different than yours or the doctors. Respect the choices they are making.
• Do not discuss the visit with others, including family members, unless your friend has given you permission to do so.
• When a Friend Has a Chronic Illness from the American RSDHope Group:
• How to Help a Loved One with Chronic Illness
• 27 Ways to Comfort a Sick Friend