Supporting Someone Through Illness

Ten Most Helpful Things

I am often asked by people is there anything I can do to help. I thought that the best way to answer that question is to create a list of the ten most helpful things people can do to help someone living with multiple illnesses and disabilities. Of course it is up to the individual as to whether they find it helpful or not, which is why the first point is so crucial. 

1 – Ask questions:  I know some people are hesitant to ask questions to a person with multiple illness and disabilities. Please don’t be afraid. It is helpful if you do ask questions. For someone with multiple illnesses they know that health challenges are a prominent feature of their life, and so they expect that you are going to be curious about their conditions and treatments, and want to ask questions. If they don’t want to talk about it they will change the subject.  

2 – Follow-up: If someone has told you that they are going to a particular doctor, or having another surgery or even just going through an even more challenging time with their health, it’s always really nice when people follow up to see how it went or how you are going. You become very tired of being the one to fill people in and keep them up to date. You’re never quite sure if people are generally interested unless they ask.  

3 – Encourage the person through messages and phone calls: Encouragement to keep going and not give up is so helpful, no matter how many years one has battled with an illness. Please find out what encourages the person, and keep encouraging them, whether it is through Bible verses, links to songs, quotes, articles or even jokes. Laughter is always the best medicine. 

4 – Let people know you are praying for them:  The longer you’re sick the less people tell you that they are praying for you. They probably haven’t stopped praying for you, but they just assume that the person knows you are praying for them. Don’t assume they know you are praying for them. The person also feels less alone in this journey when you tell them you are praying for them. 

5 – Listen to them: Battling multiple illnesses can be very lonely. It can also be very traumatic at times. A person with multiple illnesses may be housebound a lot of the time and have little social interaction. They may not live with anyone else or have a means of expressing to someone the difficulty of the situation they are in. Sometimes one of the most helpful things that a person can do is to just listen to them. Listen to the story. Listen to the heartache. Listen to how painful the situation is, and don’t respond with advice or compare the situation to yourself or another person, but just listen to what is being said, and offer advice only if asked. 

6 – Take the person out or go visit them: No matter how many years one has been housebound for or how many times they have been in hospital, it is always a blessing to have someone make the effort to come visit or pick you up from your home and take you out. However, some people may not be able to get out of their home, and be hesitant to invite anyone over because of the effort involved in hosting. A solution to this might be to come over and offer to cater. Furthermore, people in this situation usually have very high medical costs and for some are on a pension, so they don’t necessarily have the financial means to be going out all the time. Please consider whether you are in a position to shout them a coffee or meal. 

7 – Do something fun:  Spending your life at medical appointments and resting in between can be quite tiresome and sometimes all you feel like is a bit of fun. Find out what the person finds fun and go join them in having fun. It might be going to see a concert or simply watching a movie at their house. 

8 – Offer transportation somewhere: People with multiple illnesses may find driving themselves to be rather draining or challenging in some other way. Sometimes they may not be able to turn up to things simply because they are unable to drive at that particular moment. If you know the person would ordinarily be going to a particular thing and you are too, offer them a lift. Even if they don’t accept the offer, it will mean a lot to them that you have considered their needs and offered a lift. It can be so draining to always be the one asking for rides to places.  

9 – Offer to come to appointments with them: It has always meant so much to me to have someone come to my medical appointments. It can be really hard turning up to appointments by yourself. You don’t necessarily need someone to come into the appointment, although where appropriate it is always nice, but even having the moral support in the waiting room or on the way to and from the appointment is so helpful. 

10 – Offer to help with domestic tasks: Some people with multiple illnesses may not have qualified for funding to employ people to assist them with domestic tasks. If this is the case, it’s always helpful for people to offer to cook a meal, or help with cleaning and washing. Even if people do have formal help with domestic tasks, the people they employ can’t do everything for them, so the person may still need help with tasks around the home or even someone to take them shopping. 


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