How to Reach Out to Others when Living with a Chronic Illness

Talk with People Who Have the Same Illness
Sharing with and learning from people who have the same feelings as you can help you cope with your own illness.

  • Find a support group in your area for people who have the same chronic illness as you. Many organizations and hospitals offer support groups. Ask your health care provider or social worker how to find one. For example, if you have heart disease, the American Heart Association may offer or know of a support group in your area.
  • You may also find comfort from participating in an online support group. Search for relevant online blogs and discussion groups.

Tell Others about Your Chronic Illness
You may find it hard to tell others that you have a chronic illness. You may worry that they will not want to know about it or that they will judge you. You may feel embarrassed about your chronic disease. These are normal feelings. Thinking about telling people can be harder than actually telling them.

People will react in different ways. They may be:

  • Surprised.
  • Nervous. Some people might not know what to say, or they might worry they will say the wrong thing. Let them know that there is no right way to react and no perfect thing to say, but that you’re glad they’re willing to listen.
  • Helpful. They may know someone else with the same illness, so they may be familiar with what is going on with you.

You may look and feel fine most of the time. But sometimes you may feel ill or have less energy. You may not be able to work as hard, or you may need to take breaks for self-care. When this happens, you want people to know about your illness so they understand what is going on.

Tell people about your illness to keep you safe. If you have a medical emergency, you want people to step in and help. For example:

  • If you have epilepsy, your coworkers should know what to do if you have a seizure.
  • If you have diabetes, they should know what the symptoms of low blood sugar are and what to do.

Let People Help You
There may be people in your life who want to help you take care of yourself. Let your supportive family and friends know how they can help you with daily tasks at home. Sometimes all you need is someone to talk to.

You may not always want help. You might not want advice. Tell people as much as you feel comfortable. Ask them to respect your privacy if you don't want to talk about it.

If you attend patient support groups, you may want to take family members, friends or others along. This can help them learn more about your illness and how to support you.

If you are involved in a support group online, you might want to show family or friends some of the postings to help them learn more.

If you live alone and do not know where to find support:

  • Ask your physician or social worker where you can find support.
  • See if there is an agency where you can volunteer. Many health agencies rely on volunteers. For example, if you have cancer, you may be able to volunteer at the American Cancer Society.
  • Seek hospitals and clinics in your area that might offer talks or classes about your illness. This can also be a good way to meet others with the same illness.

Get Help with Your Daily Tasks
You may need help with your self-care tasks, getting to appointments, shopping or daily cleaning tasks. Keep a list of people who you can ask for help. Learn to be comfortable accepting help when it is offered. Many people are happy to help and are glad to be asked.

If you do not know someone who can help you, ask your physician or social worker about different services that may be available in your area. You may be able to get meals delivered to your home, help from a home health aide, or other beneficial services.

SOURCE: MedLine Plus

You May Also Be Interested In:

The Conversation Starter Kit

Discussing your health care wishes with your provider.