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Compassion and Care: How to Support a Loved One With Chronic Illness

1 year, 5 months ago

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Posted on Feb 13, 2023, 7 p.m.

Chronic illnesses often come with a host of symptoms that can make everyday life exponentially more challenging. While medication can help to manage some of these, many still experience a great deal of pain and fatigue. Fortunately, there are ways to help your loved one manage their chronic illness and go the extra mile to make their life a little easier. 

Emotional Support

It's important to remember that your loved one is likely feeling a range of emotions, from anger and frustration to sadness and anxiety. Whenever possible, it helps to be there for them to talk, lend a listening ear, and offer encouragement. Search for local support groups or online forums that can help them feel connected to others who understand what they might be going through.

Doctors Appointments

Frequent doctor appointments can be difficult to keep track of, especially when you’re debilitated. If your loved one is struggling with these, you can help by scheduling appointments, helping them fill out paperwork, and going with them to their appointments (as long as they're comfortable). There are also plenty of programs that allow you to share access to documents so that you and your loved one can both keep track.

Healthy Meals

A healthy diet is important for everyone, but it's especially crucial for those with chronic illnesses. Many chronic illnesses are aggravated by inflammation, so a diet that's high in anti-inflammatory foods will lessen symptoms. Cook your loved one meals that are rich in fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and lean protein. You can also look for recipes that are specifically designed for those with chronic illnesses.

Home Modifications

There are a few simple modifications you can make in your loved one's home that can help them to better manage their chronic illness. 

  • Install grab bars in the bathroom and other areas where they might need extra support.
  • Make sure they have a comfortable place to rest and relax, like a comfortable chair or a spot in the sun.
  • If they work from home, create a stress-free home office for them. This might include updating technology so that they can work more efficiently, and setting up an ergonomic workspace to limit pain.

Health Insurance

Chronic illness can be expensive to manage, especially if your loved one doesn't have comprehensive health insurance. Help them navigate their health insurance coverage by taking a closer look at their policy to see what's covered and what isn't, and help them to find ways to save money on their care. Search for government programs or other financial assistance options that can help them to cover the cost of their chronic illness.

Stress Relief

Chronic illness can be stressful, so it's important to find ways to help your loved one relax and unwind. Help them to identify their stressors and brainstorm ways to reduce or eliminate them. Then, focus on relaxation techniques that can help to calm their mind and body, like deep breathing, meditation, and yoga. Look into massage, aromatherapy, and other relaxation therapies as well.

Go Back to School

If you find that you have a knack when it comes to caring for others, you could always consider going back to school for a nursing degree. And if that sounds like too much of a time commitment, take a look at the flexibility afforded by online programs which allow you to learn at your own pace, without having to take too much time away from your other obligations.


Those with chronic illnesses should stay as active as possible, as this helps reduce pain, fatigue, and other symptoms. It's important to find an activity that's appropriate for your loved one's abilities and energy levels. Walking, swimming, and Tai Chi are all good options. You can also look into adaptive sports and exercise programs that are specifically designed for those with chronic illnesses.

With the right approach, supporting your loved one living with chronic illness can make a world of difference to their quality of life. Each condition is different, so it's important to work with their healthcare team to devise a plan tailored to their specific needs. There is also a plethora of resources available to help you both navigate this new reality.

The American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine is a not-for-profit medical society dedicated to the advancement of technology to detect, prevent, and treat aging-related diseases and to promote research into methods to retard and optimize the human aging process. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

This article was written for WHN by Scott Sanders who is the creator of Cancer Well, which provides resources and support for anyone who has been affected by any form of cancer. He is also the author of the book Put Yourself First: A Guide to Self-care and Spiritual Wellness During and After Cancer Treatment.

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.

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