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8 Ways to Help a Loved One With Chronic Illness During COVID-19 Lockdown

Editor's Note

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During lockdown, those of us with chronic illness may be facing challenges that make things really tough. Living with chronic illness can be isolating at the best of times, but of course, during lockdown, this can be emphasized even more. During stressful times, this can often make our symptoms worse, causing a flare.

During this time we may be finding it difficult to access our usual medical treatment, or to get hold of our medications. Some of us may have a low immune system as part of our chronic illness or as a comorbidity, so we might not be able to leave the house at all right now. This can be really scary. Like many others, we may struggle to get shopping and other supplies.

It can be worrying for loved ones, especially those who don’t live with their friend or family member with chronic illness during this time. However, there are lots of ways that you can help your loved one.

1. Understand that stressful times can make symptoms worse.

Our minds and bodies are deeply connected, meaning that our emotions can influence our symptoms. When we’re feeling worried, stressed or anxious, it can worsen our symptoms. Understand that we may be in more pain than usual, and may be struggling to control our chronic illness more than we usually do.

2. Keep in touch.

The simple act of texting or calling can mean the absolute world to us. It can let us know that someone cares, and make us feel less alone.

3. Ask how they are.

If you aren’t sure what to say, asking how we are is a great place to start. This opens the door for us to talk about what we’re going through if we want to, without putting pressure on us to do so. If you aren’t sure how to help, you could also ask if there’s anything you can do. Sometimes just being there to listen is more helpful than you imagine.

4. Plan fun remote activities.

Planning fun activities like group video calls with loved ones, games and quizzes, and even virtual movie nights can give us something to look forward to and provide some social connection.

5. Help them with shopping.

A great practical way to help is offering to pick up groceries, especially if your loved one is unable to leave the house. You could leave shopping outside the door or try to help them get an online delivery slot, depending on your own situation.

It’s often harder to access regular medication at the moment, so offering to pick up and drop off a loved one’s prescriptions could be very useful, if you’re able.

6. Offer to contact medical professionals for them.

Communicating with medical professionals and coordinating our treatment can be stressful at the best of times, but at the moment things are so up in the air that it can be even more worrying. If you feel comfortable doing so, you could offer to contact medical professionals on your loved one’s behalf. They may not feel comfortable with that, but the offer alone lets them know you are there to help.

7. Understand they may need to set boundaries.

Your loved one may need their own space. They might not always feel up to talking or engaging in fun activities, so they may need to set boundaries. Understand that this doesn’t mean they don’t love you or appreciate your help. Please don’t stop offering or asking us to join in in the future. Even if we have to say no sometimes, we still appreciate the offer.

8. Respect their feelings.

Everyone is individual and everyone’s feelings are valid. Your loved one may have different feelings than you expect about the pandemic. Some people may find some positives in the situation, or feel it helps others to understand their usual circumstances (for example, often having to be stuck at home). Others may feel frightened about their healthcare and what could happen in the future. Some may feel really low and confused. Whatever they feel, you don’t need to understand their feelings, but you do need to respect them. Letting us know that our feelings are valid can be very helpful.

Last but in no way least, please remember that your health, both physical and mental, is just as important as your loved ones. We’re all having a hard time right now, so don’t be afraid to set your own boundaries and practice self-care.

For more on the coronavirus, check out the following stories from our community:

Getty image by Tetiana Soares.

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