Since I’ve become chronically ill I’ve had a lot of people ask if there is anything they can do. It’s a hard question to answer! There certainly are a lot of day to day activities that would be easier with a bit of healthy help. But to be honest, for me when it comes to friends and family who live outside my home, the thing I want most is for them to stick by me. I know it’s an awkward situation and you’re worried you’ll say something stupid. I get it. To be honest, the most supportive people are ones who say stupid stuff all the time! I love them because they stuck around long enough to say anything at all. Most people tend to drop off the face of my planet as soon as they hear the words ‘Chronic Illness’.
So, there you have it. I’d say the most important thing to do for a chronically ill friend is to stick with her. She is in for a crazy ride; make sure she knows you plan on taking the seat right next to hers. If you feel awkward, or don’t know what to say, that’s ok! Here are some ideas to help you stick by your sick friend whether she be far or near.
- Remember dates. Call on a day you know a test result will be back. Offer to help lighten her load on a day when she has to go in and see a specialist. Remember the date she uses to calculate how long she’s had CFS- many CFS patients can tell you the exact date of when they got sick. The anniversaries of those days are hard to swallow no matter how many times you revisit them.
- Call or email regularly. It doesn’t have to be daily or weekly or even monthly. But it does need to be consistent. Just keep making contact. You don’t even have to say anything about him being sick- just say hello.
- Find a project to work on together. Read the same book, write on the same blog, preserve family photos, follow a local sports team, learn how to crochet. It really doesn’t even matter. Just find something she can do in bed that helps her feel like you are still an active part of her life.
- Do her nails! She’ll feel beautiful every time she looks down at them.
- If you cut hair, offer to come give him a trim in his home so he can save energy for something more important than getting a hair cut.
- When you’re on your way over for a visit, call and ask if there’s anything you can pick up for her on your way. There are so many days when I really need to get to the pharmacy but just don’t feel up to driving!
- Ask if she’d like a ride to her next doctor appointment
- See if he’d like company on a day he gets his next test results
- Ask if she’d like company at her next CFS support group meeting. Those meetings are often as much to educate friends and family as they are to support the patients.
- Do something for their significant other (they have a LOT of extra work on their shoulders as the healthy family member!)
- Suggest a great book or movie your just saw
- Schedule a time each week with your sick friend. It can be a phone call or a quick visit. It doesn’t have to be much, but having something to look forward to really helps the days go by faster. Make sure if your are planning a phone call that your friend knows that if he’s too sick to talk he can simply not answer. If planning a visit, call or text right before hand to make sure your friend feels up to company.
- Make a meal that she can put right in her freezer and pull out on a sick day
- Order him a magazine subscription on his favorite topic
- Share a great book. Any book will do, but having a real page turner that’s hard to put down makes super sick days fly by! Maybe you can both read it and discuss it during your next chat.
- A gift certificate for Netflix or HuluPlus helps sick time fly by too
- Send a Bird Feeder or bird house to hang on the window by her bed so she’ll have something to look at while she’s resting
- Plant some bulbs outside her window so she can watch them bloom from inside (offer to do the planting under her direction so she doesn’t have to!)
- Give an inspiring journal (check out live-inspired.com)
- Send a calendar with daily funny or inspiring quotes
- Give something beautiful to put by her bed so she has something nice to look at all day long (a framed picture, perfume bottle, a fun clock, etc)
- Pick out some fun bath salts for her- they’re great for easing muscle pains
- Cute and comfy pajamas make a day in bed a little more fun- and it’s nice to have a set you can wear in public in case you have surprise visitors.
- Get them some new music, either a great CD or iTunes Gift Card would work great.
- Give a gift card for take out food or delivery
- Make or purchase a Microwavable heat pack to ease sore muscles (if you sew, check out my Dachshund neck warmer pattern!)
- Give a stack of cheerful paper plates to be used on days when she’s not up for doing dishes
Not so Cheap Ideas
- Send a gift certificate to audible.com
- Give her gift certificate for a massage (make sure it’s close by so she can get there when she’s feeling down! If you live close, offer to drive her there.)
- Organize a gift certificate to a grocery delivery service (grocery shopping is seriously the hardest errand. I never realized how much energy it took until I got sick and still had to do it every. single. week.)
- Give a membership to Amazon Prime (this allows for easy shipping of supplements to avoid extra trips to health food stores, plus free shows to watch on sick days! This one is a little trickier to give as a gift as of right now- Amazon doesn’t do gift memberships like Netflix or Hulu- so it would take a bit of organization. But it would definitely be helpful!)
- Send a course from The Great Courses in his favorite subject
- Get her a project to work on in bed- maybe let her pick it out. (crochet, needlepoint, etc) Etsy.com sells lots of kits that include everything you need for a fun project.
- If she doesn’t have one, a wedge pillow can make her more comfortable in bed ( I have one like this that I love)
- Make/buy her a nice throw to keep her warm (I have one my good friend quilted for me that makes me happy on my saddest days!)
- If she loves gardening but can’t get out much, a grow light or AeroGarden can help bring a manageable little garden indoors. Offer to help set it up!
- A Fitbit One is great to monitor daily activity and sleep quality
- A freezer (ok, this is a big purchase, but having extra freezer space allows patients to have lots of easy to prepare meals on hand at all times)