How To Help People Living With A Serious Illness

elderly with cat

When someone we love is struggling with a serious illness, it can be difficult to know how to help. We may feel overwhelmed or unsure of what we can do to make a difference. However, there are many practical and emotional steps that we can take to support our loved ones during this challenging time. In this blog post, we will explore some of the most effective ways to help people living with a serious illness. From offering practical assistance and providing emotional support to promoting self-care and coordinating services, these tips will help you become an invaluable companion on your loved one’s journey towards healing and recovery.

Offer Practical Assistance

These tasks may seem small, but they can make a big difference in the life of someone who is struggling. In essence, this could include running errands, cooking meals, or helping with household chores, including specialized palliative care, among many other things. Namely, when offering assistance, it’s important to ask your loved one what they need and respect their wishes. Some people may feel uncomfortable accepting help or prefer to handle certain tasks on their own. By asking first, you show that you are willing to help without assuming that your loved one needs it. If you’re not sure where to start when offering practical assistance, consider making a list of tasks that you’re comfortable doing and then presenting it as an option for your loved one to choose from. You could also offer specific suggestions based on their individual needs and circumstances. Remember that even if your time or resources are limited, there are still many ways you can provide practical assistance. Sending a thoughtful card or text message letting them know you care can be just as meaningful as cooking dinner or doing laundry.

Provide Emotional Support

It can be challenging to know how to provide emotional support, especially if you are not familiar with the person’s condition or are uncomfortable discussing emotions. However, a little bit of kindness and empathy can go a long way. For instance, one can provide emotional support by actively listening. Allow the person to express their feelings without judgment and offer words of encouragement and validation. Sometimes just having someone who will listen can make all the difference. It’s also essential to show that you care for them beyond their illness by engaging in activities that they enjoy or simply spending time together. This helps create positive memories despite difficult circumstances, which can uplift their spirits. Additionally, providing practical assistance such as running errands or doing household chores could alleviate some stress from them and allow more quality time together where you’re able to offer conversation without pressuring them into talking about their health issues.

Be a Reliable Companion

When you offer your company, you provide them with comfort and reassurance that they are not alone in their struggles. To be a dependable companion, it’s essential to show up consistently and follow through on commitments. If you promise to visit or call at a specific time, ensure that you do so. Your loved one may be relying on your presence as part of their emotional and mental well-being. Listen actively when spending time together. Ask open-ended questions about how they’re feeling and what activities they enjoy doing. Be present at the moment without letting distractions take away from quality time together. Be mindful of physical limitations or restrictions related to the person’s illness during outings or activities together. Adjustments may need to be made, but this doesn’t mean fun cannot be had.

elderly holding a ball

Educate Yourself

This does not necessarily mean becoming an expert in medical terminology or treatments. It means taking some time to research the illness, its symptoms, and how it affects daily life. This way, you will have a better understanding of what your loved one is going through and be able to offer more informed support. It’s also important to seek out information from reliable sources such as reputable medical websites or healthcare professionals. Avoid spreading misinformation that may cause unnecessary anxiety or confusion for your loved one. Moreover, educating yourself on available resources like support groups, counseling services, financial assistance programs, and community resources could go a long way in helping your friend/family member navigate their journey toward recovery.

Coordinate Support Services

This may include assistance with medical appointments, transportation to treatments or even help around the house. Once these needs have been identified, it’s time to start exploring resources that can provide this kind of support. There are many organizations and agencies that offer support services for people living with serious illnesses. Hospitals and clinics often have social workers who can connect patients with resources in their community. Non-profit organizations like the American Cancer Society and Alzheimer’s Association also offer a wide range of programs and services. It’s important to communicate regularly with those providing the support services to ensure they are meeting your needs effectively. Don’t hesitate to ask questions or advocate for yourself if necessary.

Promote Self-Care

Take time to recharge and practice self-care activities such as exercise, meditation, or reading. It’s important to prioritize your physical health and emotional wellness so that you can continue providing care without experiencing burnout. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or delegate tasks when necessary. You don’t have to do everything on your own and accepting assistance does not make you any less of a caregiver. Make sure to maintain regular check-ups with your doctor and attend therapy sessions if needed. This will help you manage stress levels and prevent physical or mental health issues from arising. Remember that taking care of yourself should not be seen as selfish but rather as an essential part of providing good quality care for others. Promote self-care by setting boundaries, prioritizing restful sleep patterns, seeking out social connections outside of caregiving responsibilities, practicing positive affirmations daily, etc.


Helping someone who is living with a serious illness can be a challenging and emotionally draining experience. However, by offering practical assistance, providing emotional support, being a reliable companion, educating yourself, coordinating support services, and promoting self-care you can make an immense difference in their lives. Remember that every person’s journey is unique. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions to helping people living with serious illnesses. Be patient and understanding and always keep in mind that your loved one may have different needs at different times.