8 Gifts Your Loved One with Chronic Illness Really Wants
This time of year we are all thinking about what those around us want, but we should be thinking about it all year around.
I’ve posted my annual gift guide, a list of items you can buy (or make) for your loved one that they will surely appreciate. But, what would mean more than any gift to them is if you could give them these eight gifts all year around.
1. Give them Your ears
Just sit and listen to what they are going through without trying to tell them how to fix it.
Your loved one probably already knows more than their doctors do about their diagnosis. Don’t try to give them more tips and ideas on how to “fix” the problem.
What is more helpful is just an ear to vent to, someone they know will listen without judgement. You’ll likely find that if you can do this they will probably complain less about their illness and have an easier time moving through the hurts and pains of life.
You may need you to give them permission to talk openly. Too often when we are suffering we feel like no one really wants to hear about it, so we bury it, which is the worst thing we can do.
2. Give them acceptance
They need you to love and accept them just as they are.
When you constantly give advice, it’s silently telling them that they aren’t good enough or that it’s all in their head. They know it’s not all in their head and they need you to acknowledge this as well.
They need you to acknowledge that their pain, fatigue, and other symptoms are real.
They need you to understand and accept their limitations and help them stay within them.
If loud music or social events overwhelm them, then turn the music down and help them remember their earplugs. If they tell you it’s time to go home because they have reached sensory overload, they need you to just say it’s OK and leave without complaint.
3. Give them understanding
We know it’s not possible for you to fully understand our illness without living it, but we hope you’ll try.
Take a little time to research your loved one’s illness and understand what symptoms can be expected. Understanding the symptoms helps you to know that what you are seeing is not your loved one but their disorder or disease that leads to them saying “no” to things.
They need you to understand that when they say no it’s not a personal rejection to you, simply a statement of their own limits.
They need you to understand that they can’t always plan ahead and that doing say may lead to cancelled plans. Those plans may sound great in the moment, but when the time comes to actually enjoy the activity they may not be able to, and they don’t want added guilt from you over it (they’ll create enough of their own).
They need you to understand how their illness affects their ability to think. Sometimes the words they say may not be the words they mean.
When they pause mid-sentence understand that they are trying to think of the word they want. You can help by inserting the word you think they mean. Also understand that they may have memory issues.
Gentle reminders of things they need to do or places they need to go are greatly appreciated. Above all else, be patient.
4. Give them support
Your loved one needs your support both privately and publicly. If they ask you to attend a support group or go to a counselor with them, go. If they are attending alone and don’t ask you, offer to go. They may just not feel comfortable asking for help.
Privately, they need to know you support them as well and you can let them know that by listening and understanding, as well as simply by being there to help them when they need it.
5. Give them permission
When you see that they look particularly miserable, in pain, or just tired give them permission to rest.
Often we want to be with you so we’ll push through. But, when we know that you see that we are tired or hurting and you suggest a rest it’s much easier to step back and take that time.
When you suggest that they go lie down, offer to do whatever it is that they are worried won’t get done. Too often we get worried that things won’t get done if we don’t do them, so we’ll push far past our limits.
If we know you’ve got it covered we can give ourselves permission to rest, as well.
6. Give them help
Give your loved one help with the house, children, and whatever else may need to be done.
Often we don’t have the energy to do basic things but we’ll try anyway, because we feel they need to be done.
Offer to help cook or call for take-out. Help clean up around the house, or even hire them a maid. Take care of the kids needs so that your loved one can take care of theirs.
On their good days, offer to help prepare things that can be easily frozen and heated up on the bad days.
7. Give them awareness
Be aware of what medications they are taking and how those medications might affect them.
Often we don’t notice changes (big or small) that medications or changes to routine or treatment may bring, but if you are paying attention you will notice.
Let them know when you see changes, good or bad. That awareness may make all the difference in whether they continue a treatment that is working, or stop one that isn’t.
8. Give them LOVE
This one probably should have been first, because it’s definitely the most important. And, if you are giving them this, you are hopefully giving them the rest. But, love means many things.
Love means touching them gently in ways that they can bear. Love means holding them gently when they are hurting, massaging their aching limbs. Love means showing them as well as telling them, through many caring actions, through your words, providing comfort, and giving caring affection.
Take some time to go over this list with your loved one and talk about which of these items they feel they need the most. They may not feel comfortable asking for what they need, often we don’t when we are ill. If you give them every item on this list, you definitely can’t go wrong.
Have questions? Ask them in the comments below.