Living with a chronic medical condition can make many aspects of life harder than they need to be. People with chronic conditions will need more support than the average person, but how do you help them? It can often feel like an impossible task as you know the person is struggling or in pain, yet you also know that their problem will never go away. You start to feel helpless of assume that there’s nothing you can do to help.
Some people go the other way and become overly helpful. That may sound weird, but anyone with a chronic condition reading this will know what it means. Yes, people want support, but they don’t want to feel coddled. They want to retain as much independence as possible while getting assistance in the key areas they need to live a comfortable life.
Living with someone who has a chronic condition or looking after someone in this situation is all about finding the right balance. Here are some key tips to help you support someone you love without pitying them or being too overbearing:
Talk To Them About Their Condition
Chronic conditions come in all shapes and sizes. When most people think about them, they immediately consider chronic diseases like cancer or diabetes. However, there are so many other types of chronic medical conditions you’re probably not aware of. Some of these are completely invisible to the naked eye, so you don’t truly understand what someone is going through.
For instance, a mental illness can be a type of chronic condition as it can’t be cured, has debilitating effects on someone’s life and can flare up at any time. Likewise, lots of physical or mental disabilities are chronic conditions. A lot of people live with disabilities their entire lives, meaning it looks like they have control over them. The same goes for other chronic conditions too – from the outside, it looks like they’re not obviously struggling, so you don’t always provide as much support as you should.
All of this can be solved by simple communication. Talk to the person about their condition – ask them what it’s like. Let them explain what they’re living with and why it sometimes makes life hard. This is the key to understanding the individual and seeing where they need the most assistance. You will learn things you absolutely had no clue about before, believe me. It’s a real eye-opener and you can move on from here by providing more or less support, depending on what the person needs.
Focus On Giving The Person A Sense Of Independence
Nobody likes feeling as though they’ve lost control of their life. You wouldn’t like to wake up every day and see someone do everything for you. People need independence, and the need for this grows when you have a chronic condition. You already know that your condition is debilitating in many ways, so you want to try and do as much by yourself as possible.
When looking after someone with a chronic medical condition, you need to be aware of this. Always do your best to give the person a sense of independence. For instance, if someone has a physical condition that impairs their ability to walk, you shouldn’t try to help them by immediately putting them in a wheelchair. They may be able to walk around the house or to the shops – they just need some extra help!
In this scenario, giving them something like a rollator and taking advantage of various rollator accessories is a much better solution. You’re providing support while ensuring they can be independent. The person can now walk around using the rollator so they don’t constantly need someone pushing them around.
The same goes for different daily tasks. Maybe the person struggles to get out of bed due to their condition, but they have no problem cooking food or making dinner. Here, it’s a terrible idea to help them get out of bed and cook their meals for them. They know they can’t do one thing, but taking away the other task makes them feel less independent. Listen to the individual and give them as much independence as you can while supporting them when they need help.
Always Be Empathetic
One of the big reasons talking to someone with a chronic condition is important is so you can see what they’re going through. This helps you develop empathy, which is critical whenever you’re looking after someone.
Being empathetic means you understand how someone is feeling and can see what they’re going through. People with chronic conditions tend to struggle because other people don’t always get why they’re in pain or upset. There are countless scenarios when someone with a chronic illness may struggle to do something really obvious. From another person’s perspective, it can be frustrating watching them struggle as it looks like they’re not trying.
Depression is the perfect example of this in action. Someone suffering from depression will go through spells where they don’t even want to move. They could stay in bed sleeping all day. From your perspective, you see this and think the person is being lazy or stupid. You think they’re just moping around or looking for an excuse to not go to school or work. In reality, they’re fighting an internal battle that’s eating away at them. Sometimes, having someone sit next to them and ask if they’re okay or bring them a cup of tea is all it takes to help. Show some empathy and understanding; it goes a long way and means a lot to people suffering.
There are only three tips here, but we’ve covered a lot of information. Looking after or helping someone with a chronic medical condition doesn’t need to be as challenging as it seems. All you have to do is listen to the person. Let them explain what’s wrong and how you can help. Provide support without going over the top so they can still do things themselves whenever possible. And above all else, always be empathetic.