How to Support a Loved One with a Chronic Illness

Supporting another person with a chronic illness
Supporting someone with a chronic illness

How to Support a Loved One with a Newly Diagnosed Chronic Illness

By April Meyers

Being diagnosed with an incurable chronic condition can be incredibly traumatic. If you have a loved one who has recently received a chronic illness diagnosis, you’re probably wondering what you can do to help. Between monitoring their wellbeing and offering emotional support, there are many ways to provide support as your loved one navigates this difficult experience and learns to live with their condition.

Watch for Signs of Substance Abuse

Chronic and life-threatening illnesses can increase the likelihood that someone will develop a substance abuse disorder. One of the main reasons for this is medication misuse. The misuse of prescription painkillers—often opioids—can lead to dependence and addiction. And when prescription painkillers aren’t enough, people with painful chronic conditions sometimes self-medicate with stronger drugs. Alcohol, of course, is commonly abused by people struggling to cope with the psychological toll of difficult life events.

Whether or not you feel your loved one is at risk of addiction, keep an eye out for signs that they may be wandering down the substance abuse path. Want to learn more? Check out Self-Renewal.com for more information about addiction and recovery.

Educate Yourself About Their Condition

Often, we fear what we don’t understand. By taking the time to learn more about your loved one’s condition, you may have a better understanding of how you can help them. You could even go back to school and pursue a nursing degree! Look for online programs that make it easy to earn a nursing degree while working full-time or acting as a family caregiver to your loved one. Just make sure the online school you choose is accredited!

Offer Tangible Support

Once you understand your loved one’s condition a little better, you’ll be able to offer support that has a real impact on their quality of life. Social support typically falls into a few different categories. According to GoodThink, tangible support is a type of support that involves taking on responsibilities for someone else so they have more time and energy to manage a problem they’re dealing with. This might mean bringing cooked meals to your loved one, driving them to doctor’s appointments, watching their kids, or helping them resolve health insurance issues.

Provide Emotional Support

While tangible support is invaluable to people suffering from chronic conditions, emotional support can also have a positive impact. Emotional support is as simple as showing care and compassion to someone else. CreakyJoints.org cautions against offering unsolicited advice or minimizing what the person is going through. Instead, try to offer an empathetic ear, acknowledging and validating anything they want to say about what they’re going through.

Make Time for Self-Care

If your loved one has a chronic illness, it’s completely normal to experience symptoms of anxiety and/or depression. Family caregivers, in particular, can reach a state of burnout after dealing with this stress for too long. Be sure to make time for self-care so you can maintain your health and wellbeing. For most people, self-care involves a combination of exercise, healthy eating, getting enough sleep, and relaxing activities such as yoga or meditation.

Just as you monitor your loved one for changes in their health, keep an eye out for signals that you’re reaching a point of burnout. For example, you might begin withdrawing from friends and family, get sick more often, feel physically exhausted, or notice changes in your sleeping or eating habits. These are all signs that it’s time to take a break and lean on your support system.

Learning that a loved one has a chronic illness can be incredibly stressful. By getting educated and getting involved in their disease, you will have a better understanding of what they’re going through and how you can help. Just remember to take care of yourself too!

Do you know someone who is struggling with addiction? Take some time to explore Self-Renewal.com for useful information on drug and alcohol addictions and how concerned loved ones can offer their support.

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April Meyers, from mindbodyhealthsolution.com, is working on becoming a certified yoga instructor.

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