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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Some Advice

Below are excerpts from a list I found on a website regarding "National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week" which I found on a very cool website, ChronicBabe.com.   I decided to post some of the list here because I know personally the difficulty of not knowing how to handle friends, or other loved ones who have chronic health conditions, or any serious health condition really. I have seen the sad reality that this causes time and again: those who end up needing a support system the most suddenly find themselves without one.  I am lucky to have been raised by a mom who simply will NOT be one of those deserters, and of course I'm living with some chronic stuff myself, and have subsequently learned about the importance of being a true friend through thick and thin. But even then I find it difficult sometimes to know what to do or what to say to be the friend that someone needs me to be.  I know that others who have silently and suddenly slipped from my life when my Dx came aren't bad people. They didn't purposefully say: what can I do to make things worse for Xine?
The list comes from a book: Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend which has a Christian base to it. I mention this because one thing that I have found to be inappropriate and not helpful, is for folks to tell me that I just need to pray more, or some other such nonsense that offends me and shows how little they know about me. That is NOT to say that I don't appreciate being included in other's prayers. It is in fact quite helpful to know that others are thinking positive thoughts for me, when I am not always able to myself. My only caution would be to not go full force with some of the religious suggestions unless you know for sure what religious/spiritual beliefs the person holds. Even then it can be tricky. Like # 15 says: Ask. "Would you be comfortable with having your name on a prayer list, so that others can pray for you?" Don't assume.
Some others that I particularly liked are:
  • Understand that she lives in a constant state of making decisions for which there is no guarantee that she is making the right choice.

  • Put meals in disposable containers and attach a note saying "This doesn't need to be returned."

  • Add stickers to envelopes for a cheerful touch.

  • Arrange for your friend's kids to have a night with your children.

  • Don't make a person into a project.

  • Ask, "Would you be willing to talk to a friend of mine who has recently been diagnosed with a chronic illness and offer her some encouragement?" It makes one feel good to know that her experience can offer someone else hope and that God still has a purpose for her life.

  • Wash his car and put a little note inside for him to find later.
    Remember important anniversaries, both the good and the bad. No one else will.

  • Ask, "Do you want company the day that you wait for the test results? I could come over for a couple of hours."

  • Accept that her chronic illness may not go away. If she's accepting it, don't tell her the illness is winning and she's giving in to it

  • Don't say, "Let me know if there is anything I can do." People rarely feel comfortable saying, "Yes, my laundry." Instead pick something you are willing to do and then ask her permission.

  • Ask her to share her testimony at an event.

  • Buy a magazine subscription for her on her favorite topic

  • Plant a rosebush to view from a window.

  • Just listen . . . until it hurts to not say anything. And then listen some more.

  • Mop the floors.

  • Buy a brightly colored umbrella as a gift.

  • For a unique gift, provide brightly colored paper plates, napkins, and utensils in a gift bag with a note that says "For when you don't feel like doing dishes."

  • Get her a pretty box to keep all of her notes of encouragement. Remind her to get it out and read things when she is feeling down

  • Be her advocate. If you are at an event and walking/seating is an issue because of her disability, ask her if she'd like you to take care of it. If she says you can, be firm but not rude. Don't embarrass her by making accusations of discrimination or by making a scene.

  • Say, "While you're in the hospital I'd be happy to take care of your pet."

  • Don't tell her about your brother's niece's cousin's best friend who tried a cure for the same illness and. . . (you know the rest).

  • Find out which charity is most important to her and then give a donation in her honor.

  • Ask, "What are your top three indulgences?" and then spoil her soon.

  • Don't tease her and call her "hop along" or "slowpoke." Comments you mean in fun can cut to the quick and destroy her spirit. Proverbs 18:14 says, "A man's spirit sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?"

  • Say, "I know you must need someone to just vent to occasionally. I may not fully understand how you feel, but I'm here to listen anytime."

  • Ask, "What would you advise me to look for in a new doctor?"

  • If your friend has a disabled parking placard and you are driving, allow her to tell you where she wants to park. If she's feeling particularly good that day, she may not want to park in the "blue space." Don't be disappointed that you'll have to walk farther.

  • Don't ask, "Why can't the doctors help you?" or insinuate that it must be in her head. There are millions of people who are in pain with illnesses that do not have cures.

  • Avoid having gifts be "pity gifts." Just say, "I saw these flowers and their cheerfulness reminded me of you."

  • Ask, "Do you have an errand I can run for you before coming over?"

  • Ask her to do spontaneous things, like go to a concert in the park, or just for a picnic. She may be more likely to participate since she knows if it's a good day or a bad day.

  • Don't make her feel guilty about things that she cannot do

  • Treat her to a gift of movie rentals via postal mail through a service ($7-15 a month




Anonymous rose said...

that is a good list. i agree with the prayer question, too. anyone who knows me well knows that i don't pray, i'm an atheist, and i have often been offended by christians who have told me they were going to 'pray for me'--meaning pray that my soul doesn't burn in hell as it so obviously will, pray that i find and accept jesus christ as my savior. so when i got sick i made it clear that praying for me to be healthy and strong were very different prayers, ones i wanted and needed, in whatever form they came in. it really does help to know people are thinking positive thoughts about you. and it really is too much to ask to have to think those thoughts about yourself 100% of the time.

1:03 PM


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