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7 Ways to Support Your Chronically Ill Loved Ones During the Holidays

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As beautiful November begins the leaves are changing, the weather is getting colder, the nights longer, and the holiday magic has begun. From shopping sales to creative Starbucks cups, the holidays are officially here. For many people like myself, who live with a chronic illness, the holidays are a time of immense anxiety and energy burning activities. We love the holiday cheer just as much as anyone else, but we just need a little extra support to enjoy the holiday festivities. Here are seven “holiday hacks” to support your chronically ill loved one in enjoying the 2017 holiday season!

1. Inclusion Holiday Hack

Accessibility. If you’re planning a holiday party or event, please make sure it is accessible. Make sure bathrooms, dinning, and social areas are easily maneuverable for someone who uses assistive devices to maintain mobility. This would also include reaching the event destination. Make sure there are ramps or elevators and close handicapped and regular parking to ensure getting there is as easy as possible and not a deference. If there’s not close parking have a shuttle schedule or mechanism to allow for close drop off.

2. Food Holiday Hack

Now it may be virtually impossible to accommodate every allergy combination on the planet, but your chronically ill loved one would greatly appreciate it if you’d just ask if they had any special dietary needs to ensure they also can enjoy the fun of eating and socializing with everyone. Some of us are on “nothing by mouth” (NPO), meaning we cannot consume solid foods, if this is the case a smoothie or “liquid food” options would be much appreciated. Whether you have a vegetarian section or gluten-free options, ensuring there is at least something every one of your guest can consume is a simple way to help your favorite patient warrior enjoy themselves.

3. Social Holiday Hack

Support. For some of us the holidays are the bulk of time in which we socialize. It can be challenging to socialize when there’s something about your appearance or behaviors that don’t seem normal to others, and sometimes people aren’t always so kind. While I’m sure many of the social circles you run in wouldn’t dare alienate or ostracize anyone, making sure everyone is comfortable is a safe bet.

4. Accommodations Holiday Hack

Energy savers. All the hustle and bustle of the holidays usually means hyper mobility and extended days out and about. Chronic illness patient warriors usually have low energy, fatigue, and a general sense of “blah.” Keep this in mind when planning events or outings. Try keeping all the festivities to one location or a relatively close travel proximity. Another thing to do is allow your loved one to retreat or take breaks without calling attention to it. We don’t want to disrupt anyone else’s fun, but sometimes we need a break or to take highly stimulative interactions in doses.

5. Emotional Intelligence Holiday Hack

“How Are You?” Asking questions of any of your friends and family is good, checking in with them and their life is a natural way to bond and catch up over the holidays. But as a chronic illness Patient everyone asks how we are, if we say “fine” or “OK,” allow that answer to suffice unless you generally 100 percent sense something greater at work is wrong. You know I’m not OK, and I know I’m not OK in true sense of the word. But sometimes not all of us want to talk about it. But if we do, give us time too. Don’t force it. As a good rule of thumb, try to not to ask these questions in large groups of people or loud enough for the entire room to hear. It’s not easy opening up about the realities of living with a chronic illness try to make sharing a personable not center stage thing.

6. Gifting Holiday Hack

Not everyone believes in gifts during the holidays, but if you do, don’t make gifting weird if you’re not sure what your chronically ill loved one can use, eat, or have. A pharmacy gift card, a thoughtful card, or money will always do. Joking aside, a chronic illness patient warrior is a person too and I’m sure they’ll appreciate anything you take the time to select for them if you’re into that, just try not to make it some ordeal you’ve got to put so much thought and work into and you’re vocalizing that. Having different accommodations, limitations, or specialized needs is not something any of us chose but it is our life, over emphasis on this can make someone feel worse. When in doubt, keep it simple. You can also send them love all year round with a gift of the Spoonie Essentials Box, is a monthly themed care package subscription for chronic illness patients, which I created during my own chronic illness journey. You can find out more about sending your loved one a care package here, but any gesture of kindness is the focus.

7. Ultimate Holiday Hack

Spread love. At the end of the day keep in mind the reason for the season. The holiday season affects most people in good health or not pretty differently. Try remembering that as a person who fights a war against their body on a daily basis, any day, but especially during the holidays we just want to feel loved and cared for just like everyone else. Having family and friends around can be just the moral booster and happy times we all need, but for some of us it’s our little hope battery recharger. Be kind. Be patient. Be understanding. And always spread love as thick as peanut butter!

Do you love or care for someone with chronic illness? Share your stories and any helpful tips and tricks you’ve picked up along the way to make the holidays that much more fun in the comments below.

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Thinkstock Image By: RossHelen

Originally published: November 9, 2017
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