Supporting someone’s health needs can build a deep and lasting bond. How we support each other through an illness can depend on many things. Distance, resources, and degree of closeness all are factors. When the desire to help is there, but you could use a little guidance and inspiration, here are some suggestions for where to start.
- Ask your friend what he or she needs from you. A shoulder to cry on, a household problem solver, or healthcare advocate are very different things. Let them guide you in determining the best role for you to fill.
- Offer specific ways you can help. Someone with a serious illness may not be able to articulate what they need. Specific things might be:
- Would you like me to run the vacuum?
- What favorite dishes could I prepare for you to pop in the freezer?
- Would you like me to pick up the kids from their activities?
- Make plans for future fun. Sometimes, people are reluctant to discuss the future with a friend who is seriously ill. But planning an activity could also give your friend something to aspire to. Plans can always be adjusted, but looking ahead and having goals is important.
- Send notes and cards. It doesn’t matter if you live near or far, sending, “Thinking of you,” notes can be the equivalent of a hug. (Make sure you convey that you don’t expect a response, so they don’t feel obligated to write back if they aren’t up for it.)
- Offer to chauffeur or attend medical appointments. This is, of course, dependent on how comfortable you both are with the arrangement.
- Organize support teams if your friend is open to it. Meal trains, child transportation, babysitting times can all be helpful. Consider placing a cooler outside the friend’s door to assist with food delivery – and so as not to put your friend on the spot to greet visitors.
- Focus on the positive, but be receptive to listening if your friend wants to talk realistically.