How to help someone with a chronic illness

A chronic illness is one that means the person who has it is always unwell – it’s a long-term issue rather than a short-term condition (which would be called acute). In some cases, it’s perfectly manageable, and it doesn’t affect their daily life (not much, anyway), but in other cases, it can cause a lot of issues and really limit their ability to do the things they want to do or do the things they did before they became unwell. 

If you have a friend or loved one with a chronic condition, it’s great to try and help them in various ways, but it can also be hard to work out what you can do – after all, you can’t make them better. The good news is there are many things you can do to help someone with a chronic illness, so keep reading to find out more. 

How to help someone with a chronic illness

Be there for them 

People fall out of touch all the time, and often, it’s just a natural progression in life. However, for those with chronic conditions, it might not be because they’ve grown apart from people and friends who have gone in different directions; it might simply be that they’re unable to reach out or do things with others (so they always have to decline invitations). It’s not that they don’t want to connect with their friends and loved ones, it’s that they can’t. 

That’s why it’s important for you to be the one who’s there for them. If they can’t come to you, you can go to them. If you don’t live close by, talk on the phone or send a text to chat with them. There are many ways to stay in touch, and if your loved one has a condition that makes it hard, you can do the hard work and be there for them. 

Do your research 

It can be scary to hear that a friend or loved one has been diagnosed with a serious chronic condition, and that fear can mean you step away or you don’t talk about important things. The problem is that this can have a serious impact on the person with the condition, who might feel as though you don’t care; that could even lead to mental health problems in the long run. 

You can change this problem by researching the condition that they have and understanding more about what it means. Knowing what hypoglycaemia is and why diabetics might be susceptible, or learning about how to manage pain or what the long-term prognosis is for the specific type of cancer your friend has is crucial. When you can show you’ve done research, it shows you care, and, in a practical sense, you can actually help if need be. 


If you’re worried that you’ll have to come up with all the answers to the issues your friend or loved one is facing because of their long-term condition, the truth is that’s probably not something you’ll need to think about. They’re not going to ask you to cure them. What they might ask for, however, and what you should provide, is a listening ear

The very act of listening to someone talk about their condition, get angry about it, let it all out, or even make fun of it, is often all it takes to help them feel better, and you just have to be there; you might not have to speak at all.

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