How can you support someone who is suffering with a long-term health condition?

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Across the world, it’s estimated that around one in three adults have been diagnosed with a long-term health condition.

This staggering statistic just goes to show why it’s important to be considerate to others, regardless of whether it looks like they’re struggling – there are plenty of people who do not have a visible health issue, but still need support. 

Caring for a loved one with a chronic health condition can be an incredibly difficult challenge, both emotionally and physically. It requires understanding, patience and compassion on the part of the caregiver – but while it can be a trying time, there are also many wonderful moments to look forward to.

If you have someone in your life who is living with an ongoing illness or disability, then it can be helpful to understand how you can best support them. 

In this post, we will explore how you can support them by helping not just their physical needs but possibly even more importantly, their emotional wellbeing. Read on as we cover all aspects of being a friend or family member of someone facing health struggles.

Take the time to understand how it affects them

It can be helpful to do your own reading and research around a long-term health condition, but it’s also important to remember that everyone is different.

Your loved one may find that their diagnosis affects them completely differently to someone else with the same health concern. As a result, it’s vital that you take time to talk with them and understand how it affects them as an individual, and therefore where you can offer your support. 

Rather than assume that they need help with specific tasks, have an open conversation where you’re an active listener. Give them space to talk about how their health is impacting their life, and then go from there. 

Let them know that you’re there for them

Whilst many people focus on the physical side of a long-term health condition, it can negatively affect someone’s mental health as well. Pain, isolation, depression and a sense of mourning for lost opportunities can all come into play.

Let your loved one know that you are there for them, whether that’s seeing them in person, checking in via text or call, or simply sharing things you think they’d like to see. They may not get back to you straight away, but keeping them in the loop and letting them know they matter to you can really help.

Support their journey

Only the person with the health condition has the right to decide how they want to handle their journey. They may want to try different remedies, talk to a different health practitioner, try a new diet or exercise programme to aid them in managing their symptoms. Unless they are putting themselves in danger, try and support their wishes – you don’t always have to agree with them, but respect their choice. 

You can show your support in a variety of ways, whether that’s asking how things are going, attending appointments with them, or even simply scheduling time to workout or cook together.

Managing their diet and ensuring they are eating the right foods is essential in helping to manage any number of chronic conditions, whilst exercise (in whatever form they can manage) will also help to improve their quality of life. By giving them a safe space to express their needs, you will also be supporting their mental health.

Be flexible

Not every day is the same when you have a long-term health condition. Even the best laid plans can change if you wake up not feeling well, or need to have a quiet day in order to avoid a flare-up. Make sure that you’re considerate of this when it comes to supporting your loved one, and don’t make them feel guilty for having to change plans. 

Instead, let them know that you understand, and touch base with them in a day or two to make a new plan, rather than leaving the responsibility with them. That way, you make it clear that you want to spend time with them, and they’re not a burden. 

A brighter future

Ultimately, supporting someone with a long-term health condition is all about listening to their needs and then offering help with what you can. Remember that you also need to take care of yourself – being there for someone can be mentally demanding and time-consuming. By being clear with your boundaries you can ensure that you have enough time and energy to commit fully to the support you’re offering.

About the Author

Jared Levenson is a former binge eating wrestler turned Zen Buddhist Monk, Internal Family Systems counselor and nutrition wellness coach. He's helped hundreds of people through universal meal principles and internal family systems to make peace with food, stop binge eating, and find true health and wholeness.

@jared_levenson

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