Supporting a Loved One With Chronic Illness

Supporting a Loved One With Chronic Illness

When someone you love is living with a chronic illness or disability, it can be difficult to know how best to support them. As a caregiver or loved one, you want to do everything you can to help them manage their symptoms, thrive in spite of their challenges, and feel understood and cared for. While every person’s needs are unique, there are some helpful products, services, and general tips that can make a difference when supporting a loved one with chronic illness.

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The information in this blog post is provided for educational and informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read online. The author of this post is not a licensed medical professional and does not assume any liability for any actions taken based on the information contained in this post.

Provide Tools for Self-Care

Living with chronic illness is physically and emotionally exhausting. Help your loved one recharge by providing items that promote relaxation and comfort.

Create a Self-Care Box

Put together a customized box for supporting a loved one with chronic illness filled with self-care items like:

  • Cozy blankets or bedding (like these super soft sheets) and cozy pajamas—look for natural fabrics like cotton or bamboo that feel nice against sensitive skin.
  • A journal and nice pens—writing can be therapeutic! Choose a journal style they might enjoy like art journaling, bullet journaling, or a simple guided gratitude journal. Select some of their favorite pens.
365 days of gratitude journal banner
  • Adult coloring books (like our Chronic Coloring Book!) and colored pencils—these are meditative, calming activities. Pick intricate pattern books or themes like animals, gardens, mandalas, or fantasy art.
  • Crossword puzzles or word search books—engaging the mind can provide a sense of accomplishment.
  • Scented candles—look for gentle scents like lavender, vanilla, or clean cotton that promote relaxation. This might not be appropriate for those who have strong sensitivities to scents though!
  • Tea bags and a mug—herbal teas can be soothing. Include any special blends they enjoy and a nice oversized mug. Be sure to check out our picks for the best online tea shops!
  • Bath bombs or epsom salts—these can turn baths into relaxing spa-like experiences. Pick any scents or ingredients they find calming.
  • Lavender essential oil—add a few drops to the bath, diffuse, or apply diluted oil to pulse points for anxiety-reducing effects.
  • Face masks—give skin nurturing care. Look for moisturizing, brightening, or pore-clearing masks from brands like elf cosmetics or Miss A!
  • A soft eye mask—block out light and distractions for restful sleep or meditation. Look for contoured masks that don’t put pressure on eyes or, alternatively, a weighted eye mask for extra relaxation.
  • Noise-cancelling headphones—provide sensory relief and the ability to rest or listen to guided meditations. Over-ear cushy headphones block sound better than earbuds.
  • Inspirational books—find books that motivate and uplift the spirit. Quotation books are ideal for short bursts of inspiration.
  • Gift cards for manicures or massages—pampering treatments can provide mood boosts. Look for spas that cater to those with health conditions.

Tailor the items to their unique interests and what makes them feel calm. Present the box as a gift or re-fill it periodically so they always have supplies on hand to practice self-care.

Check out our picks for the best films for self-care days!

Provide Healthy and Convenient Meals

Many chronic illnesses come with dietary considerations so providing nutritious meals can be a loving act of service. Ask about any food sensitivities, restrictions, or nutrients they need more of for optimally supporting a loved one with chronic illness. Research recipes that fit their needs. Focus on anti-inflammatory foods, gut-healthy foods, and ingredients to boost nutrient deficiencies related to their condition. Bake or cook in bulk and freeze individual portions so healthy meals are always on hand. Glass food storage containers keep meals fresher longer.

Arrange Grocery and Meal Delivery

If cooking isn’t feasible with your schedule, arrange grocery delivery services for healthy staples and prepped foods for supporting a loved one with chronic illness. Meal kit subscription services like HelloFresh provide recipes and pre-portioned seasonal ingredients. Prepared meal delivery services offer fully cooked meals tailored to dietary needs. Look for organic, local, sustainably sourced options.

Support Social Connections

Living with chronic illness can be socially isolating. Help your loved one engage with community safely within their comfort zone and energy limitations.

Plan Small Social Outings

When they’re up for getting out of the house, arrange short excursions like:

  • Museum, zoo, or gallery visits on uncrowded days—call ahead to ask about accommodations for disabilities. Transport wheelchairs or mobility scooters can help them to save energy while there.
  • Matinee movies or theater performances—mid-week and earlier showings are less crowded. Sit near exits in case they need to step out.
  • Spa treatments or high tea—many spas offer services specially designed for health conditions. Ensure they can accommodate your loved one’s accessibility needs.
  • Accessible nature trails, gardens, or parks—find places with paved paths, benches, and bathrooms. Keep outings under an hour.
  • Book clubs or library events—libraries often host engaging low-key events. Bring along any medications or supplies they might need.
  • Coffee dates or relaxed brunches—suggest off-peak times at cozy cafes. Let them determine the length of your stay

Ask about their interests and limitations when supporting a loved one with chronic illness. Let them choose activities and pace. Balance socialization with plenty of rest while supporting a loved one with chronic illness.

Set Up Virtual Hangouts

If leaving home is difficult, set up virtual hangouts through video chat, multiplayer games, or streaming movies together. Possibilities include book clubs, crafting sessions, cooking lessons, movie nights, game nights, support groups via video chat.

Offer Practical Help

Depending on your loved one’s limitations, offer practical assistance when supporting a loved one with chronic illness, such as:

  • Grocery shopping and meal prep: Ask for grocery lists and recipes. Deliver food in reusable storage containers.
  • Light housekeeping and laundry: Offer to tidy up, do dishes, change sheets, run errands. Use natural cleaning products if they have chemical sensitivities.
  • Transportation to appointments: Offer rides to reduce stress and save energy. Help with mobility devices like wheelchairs.
  • Managing insurance, bills, paperwork: Help organize financial records. Assist with applications and claims.
  • Picking up medication refills: Offer to handle monthly refills. Understand dosage schedules. Set phone alerts.
  • Booking medical appointments: Help schedule and track upcoming appointments. Note any prep needed.
  • Following treatment plans and schedules: Assist with tasks like tracking symptoms, managing medication, administering therapies.

Ask directly how you can lighten their load. Check in periodically as needs change.

Provide Uplifting Experiences

Since many chronically ill people already have plenty of possessions, gift ideas that provide memorable experiences can be especially meaningful.

  • Tickets to concerts, plays, comedy shows—choose seating options to accommodate their needs.
  • Memberships to museums or cultural institutions—look into discounted disability programs.
  • Online virtual experiences like cooking classes or museum tours—great for bad weather days. Select engaging topics aligned with their interests.
  • Activity subscription boxes for crafting, baking, gardening—creativity can be therapeutic. Match projects to their energy level.
  • Sessions with personal trainers, yoga instructors—ensure trainers are experienced working with health conditions. Explore gentle, adaptive workout styles.
  • Photo shoots to celebrate inner beauty and strength—schedule mini sessions focused on joy and empowerment.
  • Genealogy kits to discover family origins—learning ancestry can foster meaning and connection. Help piece together the discoveries.
  • Redecorating or organizing their personal space—give their living environment a fresh, therapeutic feel. Donate any unused items.

Adjust ideas based on their interests and energy level. Choose experiences that nourish the spirit and spark joy.

Prioritize Quality Time and Connection

Sometimes the simplest gifts mean the most. Find small ways to show you care through presence and understanding. Spend quality time together without distractions from TV, phones, computers. Have genuine conversations. Listen attentively. Express admiration for their resilience. Share laughs, inspirations, happy memories. Offer encouragement and emotional support.

Check In Regularly

Call, text, or video chat regularly to show you care (and remember to be understanding if they aren’t always up to replying right away(. Ask about doctor visits, new treatments, symptoms, and progress. Be a supportive listener when they need to vent. Validate their challenges. Let them freely express feelings without judgment. Provide encouragement and reassurance.

Living with chronic illness presents daily challenges. While you can’t take away their pain, your compassion can make a world of difference in supporting a loved one with chronic illness. Use this list to spark meaningful ways to walk alongside your loved one on their path to wellness.

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