36 Easy things that you can do to make the life of your chronically ill friend a bit better.


You do not need to spend a lot of money. You can be thoughtful in so many ways. The point is to do something, and do something today. I have listed below 36 easy ideas that anyone would appreciate. Sometimes it is hard for a patient to ask for help. Just do it! The hardest thing about chronic disease is that it is chronic. I had a friend who had a really bad flu and she received flowers that very week. With me – since I am sick all the time… I get nothing. Am I any less sick, sad, frustrated, lonely, or bored. NO, I need your love and support now more than ever. When everyone else forgets that I am still in this struggle with my illness….. please remember. It didn’t go away, I didn’t forget. I need you to be my friend.
Thank you to our readers and friends who helped us compile this list!
1. Buy nice pajamas appropriate for the illness and medical circumstance. For example, pajamas that are easy on/off for an elderly friend or someone who will be going in and out of tests. I like nice warm pajamas because I find hospitals are usually cold.

2. Rent or buy a portable DVD player with a selection of movies and headphones to use in the hospital (when they wake you up at all hours of the night or you can’t sleep. I personally had this loaned to me and I loved it. It helped pass the time so much to get into a movie!

3. Down pillows or any new pillows with fun pillow cases for comfort in the hospital and to also cheer up your hospital room or bedroom at home. Hospital beds are horribly uncomfortable and all the white and green sheets are very depressing. Just check what hospital rules are.

4. Cute socks with rubberized/non skid bottoms, since you often have to get up and walk around, but don’t want to put slippers on. There are so many cute pairs which are very inexpensive.

5. Soothing music Cd’s, and something to play them on (portable like a small CD player, or an MP3 player works well.)

6. Books on CD and a portable CD player and headphones. This works great, especially for patients with migraines or neurological issues, who might have trouble seeing the TV or reading a book.

7. Buy your loved one an Ipod or MP3 player and fill it with songs to make them happy. You can even make a “themed” tape. For example: songs for friends, songs to wake up to, etc.

8. Crossword puzzle/Soduku/ game magazines are great for kids and adults too.

9. Deck of cards. This is great for anyone. Trust me if you get lonely enough or can’t sleep, you can always play solitaire.

10. Hand held electronic games (gambling slots games, solitaire and blackjack are definite favorites. Although now a Nintendo DS and one of those brain games would be good or the old time favorite Tetris – if the budget allows).

11. Magazines that are personalized to the patients hobbies, tastes etc. Crafting books, politics, fashion etc.

12. Tube of unscented hand lotion and antibacterial lotion are two things that you can never have enough of. Lots of medications dry out the skin, so this is great. I also found baby wipes came in handy for quick freshen ups when I couldn’t hobble out to the bathroom.

13. Pretty diary – really good for pregnant women (anyone really) to write down what is going on, keep track of Dr’s instructions, and use as a memory book, of sorts.

14. Ready-to-use craft kit, such as cross stitch kit, or a scrap booking kit. It is good to feel productive or creative even if you can’t leave bed.

15. 2 large packs of gum, 1 mint and 1 bubble (check with Dr., or hospital if any snacks including candy should be sugar free, or any other dietary restrictions.

16. One friend did a mix tape for me with music he knew I’d love and would cheer me up. It is so easy to burn a CD with your favorite music now on most computers.

17. NON hospital food, if the patient is not restricted with her diet. Bring the patient his or her favorite snack, or take-out from her favorite restaurant.

18. A box of pretty note cards and have them all be pre- stamped- this way the patient just has to write notes to whoever they want, and they have everything write there.

19. Calling card for long distance calls from a hospital.

20. Offer to do things for their apartment or house while they are sick or in the hospital. Do they need the mail taken in? Do they need some groceries bought so that their refrigerator is not bare when they get home?

21. If you can afford it, hire a cleaning service to come over for the day and do a really good cleaning on the house. This is a great gift for the first day home from the hospital, and also good for when the patient is home trying to get well and is staring at all the dust piling up, but may be too weak to clean. This will help put their mind at ease, but also it will make for a cleaner healthier environment.

22. Cook dinners that are easy to freeze and defrost. When you are sick you are too tired to cook, so helping to make easy to heat meals is a wonderful treat. Put post it notes on the dinners with easy instructions to re-heat.

23. If you are not a good cook, send some gift cards to local restaurants or take out. The worst feeling is to be tired, but also in a financial pinch due to medical bills. This helps so much.

24. If the patient has kids, offer to baby-sit. Even if it is taking the baby out for as little as one hour, that will be a wonderful gift of an hour of peaceful rest. It will also put the parents mind at ease to know that their child is getting attention and activity when they might not be able to.

25. Sounds silly—but just ask! Ask what you can do to help, or if they need anything.

26. Bring board games to help them have fun and start interacting again. It is also a great conversation starter for those of you who may get awkward visiting someone who is sick.

27. Offer to take care of pets, walk the dog! Pets feel it when their owners do not feel well, they need attention and love too.
28. When the patient feels up to it, offer to drive him or her to do something special, but short in timing. How about a manicure, or ice cream? Something quick enough to get out of the house, but not too long to be exhausting.

29. Send a card! It is so nice to get a “cheer up” or “thinking of you” card in the mail. Sometimes when people are home-bound the only thing they look forward to is the mail coming and when there is something nice in the mail box mixed in with bills and junk mail it will make the experience even better.

30. Send a care package. Get a box and fill it up with goodies. Remember how you felt at summer camp when you got a surprise package? It was so much fun to rip it open and see what was inside. Nothing has to be expensive, you can go to the dollar store and get fun little things. The idea is just to make the patient smile. Tip: I have always liked when people have written in a note “No thank you necessary.” I get a gift without the guilt of wanting to send a thank you note.

31. Send an email. Don’t wait for the right time. Don’t feel bad because you haven’t been in touch. It is always good to get a nice email. It is always refreshing to hear from old friends. Just start writing. If you want to make the email even better, just sign it “Reply when you can, no rush.” This way the receiver gets your well wishes without having to worry about a reply.

32. Offer to take your friend to other doctor appointments. Sometimes when we are so focused on one area of our health, we can unintentionally neglect other areas. Offer to help your friend keep up with other routine appointments like dentists, eye exams, obgyn, or even a regular check up. Now is not the time to let other areas of health go.

33. Happy nothing! Sometimes we only send our loved ones flowers or get well gifts when they are actually in the hospital or when things get particularly bad. But I think that makes the patient only feel love or attention when things are horrible. Do things really have to get that bad to be a good friend? If you love them today, show them today. If you can, send a bouquet of flowers just to brighten their day. There are so many gift delivery companies online that can send a wide variety of gifts. Every day is a struggle when battling a chronic condition, or going through lengthy medical treatments. Maybe you can make this day a bit better. Don’t wait for a reason, making your friend feel better and surprising them is reason enough. Who knows? You may just brighten their whole outlook and turn their day around.

34. Help with regular every day tasks. When I am sick sometimes I am overwhelmed with the every day jobs or errands that I no longer have energy for. One of the best gifts I have gotten is when friends or family have offered to help me for 1 hour to do anything. Just having company helped make the time pass and helped encourage me to do the jobs I probably couldn’t do before. For example, in the change of seasons going through clothes or straightening your closets can be a daunting task, but if you help while your sick friend lays on the bed, then you can get the job done, feel organized and talk too.

35. Bring over a warm fuzzy blanket to nap with. Something cuddly always cheers anyone up. And even if you think the person you are visiting has a lot of blankets, there is something special about the one you are going to bring- it is new, and it is from you!

36. Don’t forget the standard bouquet of flowers to brighten up the room, especially if you know someone loves flowers.

Article written by Christine Miserandino and bydls.com staff
Why does this list have 36? That is all the ideas we came up with! Do you have ideas to add to this list? Just add them in the comments below.

  • Pinkice

    I don’t think of it as self centered as much as ignorance toward the invisible illnesses we fight in our lives. My friends (and even my own parents) “know” but they don’t really know what I have been going through. When I start feeling upset that I am sitting in pain all alone, I think about the fact that I am sitting here in my own bitterness and hurt feelings, but who am I not giving attention to at that moment? I ask myself if there are any friends I haven’t checked in with in a while, and then send them a “Thinking of you” text, email or even a card. With every moment we feel pity for ourselves due to others not stepping up the way we wish they did, is another moment we aren’t there for someone else. I know each of our illnesses are different and we aren’t able to do what we want to do or think others should do for us, but doing something you CAN do, means a lot to others. Plus, I realized that it distracts me from feeling as left out as I did before hand. It doesn’t make the isolation go away completely, but it really does help open yourself up to ending the cycle of hurting feelings. I also found that meeting (or reading about) other people who really understand what I am going through, gives me the connection that i am really craving when I get upset about loved ones not meeting my expectations. This won’t stop the hurt of loved ones disconnecting from you after you got sick, at least it didn’t for me, but it redirects your thoughts to new people and new energy.

  • dldg

    i agree fully that we already feel like a burden so please present specific things that you are willing to do for a chronically ill friend.

  • dldg

    i hear you kay. ive been sick for five years and my family and friends rarely check in and dont offer any help. its very isolating, self-esteem crushing and just a crappy addition to my already painful life. i really thought people would be there for me when i was suffering… guess not. i agree. people are way more self-centered than i thought.