Receiving news that someone you love has a chronic or life-threatening illness can be a lot to handle. You have a desire to help, but don’t know the best ways to do so. What can you do to support them through this big life change? How do you effectively transition into the caregiver your friend or family member needs? Here is a list of a few simple things you can do during this difficult time:
Someone living with an illness is going to need help sometimes, but they may not always know how to ask for it. In fact, they could insist they’re doing fine because they don’t want the people around them to worry. If you want to lend a hand, remember this: don’t ask, do! Making a home-cooked meal, picking the kids up from school or helping around the house can be so important, as day-to-day tasks are often lost in the shuffle of treatment. Don’t wait for someone to ask for help, be proactive in finding ways to help.
Lend An Ear
Sometimes people get so caught up in finding the “right thing to say”, they forget to listen. It might be a knee-jerk reaction to be positive, but it’s also important to validate that person’s feelings -- whether that’s sadness, anxiety or fear. Receiving a diagnosis is an emotional whirlwind that’s going to cause a lot of ups and downs. The most important thing is to be there with your loved one, listen to them and remind them they’re not alone through it.
Focusing on listening doesn’t mean you have to stay in the dark about your loved one’s diagnosis. Asking questions is a great way to find out more about what they’re going through and allows you to gain a better understanding on how to help them moving forward. It will also make them feel loved and cared for throughout the experience.
Care Packages Are Everything
Receiving a care package is always lovely and helpful, but receiving a care package that’s specifically geared towards your condition and treatment is a bonus. A hospital-focused care package often includes items such as lotion and lip balm to counter the dehydration from treatment and long hospital visits. Other items, such as juice or breath mints, are great ways to counteract the metallic taste of medication. The care package can be rounded out with the usual hospital must-have’s: books, music, blankets & comfies. Giftgowns make a great gift because they look and feel like pajamas, which is a comforting reminder of home, yet are designed with the hospital in mind.
Continue Support After Treatment
Understand that no matter what stage they are in, people dealing with illness still need your love and support. While the diagnosis and treatment phase may seem most urgent, there will still be feelings of fear, trauma, and loss for someone following their treatment, as well as physical issues. Make sure to show up for them during this time, as it will continue to be an adjustment for them, physically and emotionally. They will appreciate it!
There is no one right thing to say or magical quick-fix when someone you love is diagnosed. All you can hope to do is be there for your friend or family member as they navigate this deeply personal experience. Going out of your way to remind them that they are not alone and that you are there for them goes a long way.