What to Do for a Friend with a Long-Term Illness

Long-term illnesses, whether chronic or terminal, can have a big impact on those who have them as well as their friends and family. Even with the best of intentions, your friendly support may wane as the illness trudges on. If you are just beginning this journey with a sick friend or are right in the middle of it, keep these actions in mind to help them keep moving forward.

Encouragement


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It’s easy, as a close friend, to worry about the negative experiences your ill friend may have, and while you listen, there can be a tendency to join the pity party. It is good to listen to your friend’s concerns and show them that you understand, but taken too far, you can enable a negative mindset.

Don’t forget that a bit of encouragement can go a long way. And that encouragement should be geared toward your friend and their personality. Not everyone can handle overly inspiring quotes when they’re struggling at the bottom, but that’s also where some people thrive. It’s likely that the type of encouragement you give will depend on their current situation and feelings.

Support


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The word “support” gets thrown around quite a bit when discussing life-altering illnesses or situations–so much that you begin to wonder what it actually means. You can demonstrate support for your friend in many ways.

Your friend may need someone to check in on them regularly, maybe with a quick text or face-to-face visits. They may need occasional rides to radiation oncology appointments or just want a friend to be there with them.

Remember that giving support is not enforcing rules and routines for your friend; it’s showing them that you will be there as they choose to do those things on their own.

Flexibility


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As anyone with a long-term illness can tell you, every day is not the same. Some days they can be full of energy, showing no outward signs that they’re sick, and on others, they can barely muster the energy to climb out of bed.

With so much fluctuation, it can be easy for friends and family to get frustrated about how these physical changes affect their own schedules and plans. Remember that it’s okay to cancel a night out and it’s okay to give your friend extra attention or space.

Consistency

This may seem contradictory to the flexibility mentioned above, but when it comes to enduring an experience that could potentially go on into the foreseeable future, you’ll need to pace yourself.

Don’t overdo the amount of attention and time you give your friend early on just to see yourself sputter out. Make sure you give yourself time and space to recuperate, too, so your support can be something to count on.

Variety


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Sometimes illnesses like this begin to define the relationship you have with your friend. If all your interactions focus on how they’re feeling, how they’re doing, and what’s happening with the doctor, your friendship can halt its progress.

Part of the reason they want you around is the growing friendship you have. So don’t shy away from discussing yourself, and don’t shy away from happy stories and thoughtful discussions. Your normal relationship can do wonders to offset the somberness of their illness.

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