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
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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.

©2022butyoudontlooksick.com
  • Faye Quinn

    ALL are wonderful ideas. I would like to add my two cents also!

    I have a chronic illness. Things that would help……Take my husband out for a beer and a game. He deserves a break too! He is my champion! He does 99% of “everything” !!! The care taker could use some fun every once and while too. Let’s not forget how they could use a break every week, or once a month. Sign them up for an art class, or photog class, something to get them out. Anything would do!!!

  • vicki

    I am too ill to use a telephone verbally, but a friend of mine phones my husband once a week for a chat…it really does make a massive difference knowing someone cares enough.

  • d. bolt

    yeah.. b AVAILABLE for them. not “out of pocket”. u will find that they need u n the most unusual times, n those times r the most crucial to keep their trust n u ALIVE…n don’t bullshit them. they r ill…not STUPID

  • Nicole

    A small inexpensive give that reflects a private joke can really brighten someone’s mood. The best gift I ever received was 20 years ago and it still cracks me up. My best friend used to make fun of me for parting my hair unevenly. When I was in the hospital, she brought me a rat tail comb to make a straight part. It still cracks me up. And she is still my best friend 😀

  • Teresa Norman

    My dearest friend was in a car accident and 18 months later she is still 98% disabled. She used to be very “social” and everywhere I go, people ask ME how she is doing. Seems nice enough…. but they don’t ask HER! It is almost as if people feel like they have met their “obligation” to check on a friend by asking, but in reality they know they are “safe” from actually having to help out because they aren’t asking her. Needless to say, this has gotten on my nerves, but worse, has really hurt her feelings.

    The other thing I have observed is IF people actually go over for a visit, they sit for a few minutes and leave. Again…that seems nice enough. But hey…how about tossing in a load of laundry while you are sitting there. Or maybe do a few dishes, or wow…how about cleaning her toilet in the 10 minutes you are chatting??

    If you ask, most people will say they don’t need anything done. About 3 seconds of thinking will of course tell you otherwise. Don’t ask, just get up and do it! You are there already, make yourself useful. You will feel great and they will not only love you for it but it will be appreciated more than you will ever know!

  • Aren

    Libaries: Cheap and oh so wonderful. Lots of libraries have Kindles or ereaders that have many books pre-loaded and can be checked out, as well as ebooks available online to check out (immediate dowload to any ereader/Kindle). Or, just check out a wide selection of books, cd’s, and audio books from the nearest library and bring them to your friend. It helps to ask what they’d like first, but if you get a variety of things they’ll have something for every mood and tolerance level. Plus, they’ll get to look forward to seeing you again when you come back to pick up what you brought so it can be returned to the library!

    If you’re alone and without a friend to help out, call your nearest library. Most libraries have volunteers or connections to volunteer organizations in the community, if not mobile book programs. If you tell the librarian what you want and/or, better yet, reserve the items you want online, chances are a friendly volunteer will bring them to you. It’s worth asking! If you’re especially happy or simply grateful when they come to your door, it’s even more likely they’ll do it again.

  • Bevin

    Kindle or iTunes gift card, house cleaning and hair cuts (home or salon).

  • Wanda Symmonds

    Nine years ago, I was diagnosed with SLE (systemic lupus). I left my business for the day and went home to lie down. I felt like elephants were sitting on my chest. I was taken to the ER and the search for the truth began. After days of testing and major organs shutting down, I received the blessing of the sick (formerly known as the last rites). Determined not to see the white light at the end of the tunnel that Valentine’s Day, I remember saying that I am not going anywhere because I have too many people to aggrevate yet. The pain seemed unbearable with the unending fatigue. I am a fighter and with the fight I began to regain my life. Thanks to my wonderful doctors and family support, who fought with me to find the truth and get me on the road to remission. The symptoms had been there a while but not diagnosed properly. I was in remission for almost nine years until this January, 2011. My platelette count was almost to zero, but I was not aware of what the bruising on my body meant. Once again, I had great doctors to help me to survive. It is a constant battle to stay on top of SLE and be a survivor. It takes a positive attitude and a family support system. Push forward my friend and be a survivor. You are important to the world.

  • Sharing Your Suffering in PA

    I agree that company (when you’re feeling up to it) can be a huge comfort. In fact, if people ask if they can do anything (and truly mean it) I ask them to stop by and just have a cup of tea or coffee with me. It’s good for the soul to be around other people whether they truly understand what you’re going through or not. Though another thing I will second the recommendation for, while I am fortunate to have a very helpful, able-bodied and understanding husband, I have several friends that suffer from RA, diabetes, asthma and other chronic illnesses who don’t have live-in help. One of the best things I can do for them (when I’m feeling up to it) is to go clean at their homes. Even if I can only run the vacuum or clean the bathroom or do some dishes, it’s something. I know they appreciate it more than they can say because I see the tears in their eyes. More often than not my house is a mess, but I never want to ask for help. I don’t even want to ask my already over-burdened husband who cares for our 6 year-old to do even more than he already does. If someone is willing to come over for a few hours and help me with laundry, it’s truly a huge blessing. I know it’s really hard to ask for that, but if someone truly loves you and offers to help, don’t be afraid to speak up. You’ll both be glad you did.

  • Melissa

    This was great! Thanks for sharing. My sisters and I all have a chronic illness. Funny part is they are all different. That being said the help needed is the same. What we do is help each other. My sister has two children under the age of 3 so when she is down my other sister will take them and have them over until she feels better (she lives the closest). When I can’t go to work my sister who works from home will come over and work out of my house to keep me company. It’s just the small things that help. We all understand each other and know when we say we need help we mean it.

    It also is nice to be surprised by the friend or sister showing up unannounced with flowers or some fun activity. 🙂

  • Last time I was hospitalised, I was in the hospital where I worked as a chaplain. All of the chaplains of other denominations visited, and prayed with me, which was nice of them.

    My own denomination’s chaplaincy team came in, with a wheelchair pilfered from somewhere, and said “we’re getting you out of here.” So we sneaked out (fairly sure the nurses knew we we were doing it, really) and went down to the hospital coffee shop for morning tea. It was exactly what I needed.

  • I have to agree with Sondra about keeping your word. I’ve been a single parent for over 13yrs. I was just diagnosed with Lupus 5/10/11. But over the years, people would see me struggle with one issue or another, both health related and non-health related, all which led up to the recent diagnosis. I would constantly get (and still do) “let me know if, how & when I can help you, the boys, etc” and little to no follow through. When there would be follow through, it was very obvious on many occasions that it was done under duress.
    If you’re going to tell the people that you love you will help them, please, only do so when it truly comes from your heart & not because you ‘feel guilty’. Because believe me, we know the difference. I cherish my friends who have helped me over the years and have always done so smiling & loving on me the entire time they were bringing food to my door or helping me clean a room or two in my house. Even inviting me over to have dinner & spend the day just relaxing & doing nothing.

  • A comment to “lostbutgained2”. I am not sure that with a husband and children, you can empathise with Colleen. I hope she didn’t read your message. I think the “think positive” line would only make her feel worse. You can’t know what true isolation feels like if you have a family who live with you, even with all the other challenges you face.

  • These are all great suggestions which resonated with my experience of two periods of six months in hospital separated by six months house- and mostly bed- bound. What I appreciated when people came was someone just taking me out in their car and parking somewhere with a beautiful view while we munched on a take away cake or coffee. I was unable to walk around, but just a change of scenery with good company meant a lot to me. It didn’t have to cost more than ten dollars or so for the munchies and drinks.
    Thank you also for the comments about people being there when things are “horrible” but not being there for the long term. I am still angry and bewildered at all the people who came to visit me in hospital but don’t turn up now. I thought I would have all these friends when I came home – not so. I wondered what was wrong with me but now see that is, unfortunately, human nature.
    The other thing which hurt and angered me were the people I would see out at the doctor’s surgery who would say “we’ll have you round for coffee” just to say something and then never call. Only other “spoonies” would understand how that can hurt when we are so alone, isolated and stuck at home.
    Also, ask, ask, ask. It only drains energy more when someone does something THEY want and which leaves us throwing stuff out or having more work because a deed isn’t suitable.
    Thanks spoonies – you so help me know IT’S NOT JUST ME.

  • Nanci Tomasetti

    I’ve spent the last 15+ years at home. I just go to physical therapy or doctors. When I’m hospitalized it seems as though I have to spend weeks and weeks there. My husband is wonderful but there’s nothing like a “gab fest” with any of my friends. So what I appreciate most of all is a 1/2 hour visit from a friend. We catch up and gossip and for that 1/2 hour I feel “normal” and don’t feel sick. I guess the gift of time is best for me.

  • MiniMorg

    One of the things that cheered me up no end was when my partner randomly came to visit and brought me an orchid to brighten my room just because he knew I was feeling so sick and down.
    On another occasion he visited, he surprised me with Angry Birds plushie which made me laugh and cheered me up! 😀

  • OMG, I would really LOVE having a housecleaning service come in once every few months or so. I keep the kitchen clean, my husband keeps the bathrooms clean, and between the two of us we have clean clothes to wear, but I can’t dust or vacuum or mop regularly, and forget the tougher chores that involve scrubbing. I would just hire someone myself if I had the money.

    Also, it was very helpful when my in-laws took me clothing shopping for my birthday, pushing my wheelchair so I could save my energy for actually trying on the clothes. I almost never shop because it is too exhausting and painful.

  • Janet Ballard

    So many wonderful suggestions. Sitting in a hospital room with a sick family member for days becomes very stressful. Here’s one idea that I like…I try to prepare a basket of snacks for the family members sitting with a hospital patient. Many times I sat with my dear Mother in hospitals and couldn’t leave her room for hours at a time for fear of missing the doctor’s visit. I frequently sat for hours without anything to eat before the doctor made his daily rounds. I pack fruits, individually packaged chips or crackers, trail mix, candy and usually some homemade cookies along with magazines, etc. to take to friends They always really appreciate it. Now, with my own medical problems, I really appreciate when someone does that for my family member who is with me. One friend even packed an insulated bag with deli meat, breads, lettuce, condiment packs (everything needed for a good sandwich) and fruit and a healthy dessert. It was wonderful.

  • LossbutGained2

    For Jeff – you’re a true hero! For Colleen, changed, & Rose – I truly empathize with your isolation and lack of friends. So I feel I can give y’all my 2cents… Be sure that you aren’t complaining about your physical problems to your friends and that you ask about their issues, needs and problems. It’s better to pick and choose who you talk to, and how much, about your health and medical issues. If there is any way possible, get a massage on a regular basis. I have had a therapist come to my house and now go to a chain nearby. [Though I’m married, my therapist and my kids are the only touch I get… I think my hubby feels more like my caregiver or nurse than a husband.] It is by far THE BEST INVESTMENT in myself and my health for the dollar. It reduces my stress level, my pain levels and the muscle tension. I have chronic Lyme, CFIDS, spinal stenosis and a bunch of other acronym related disorders… Massage Therapy. Go!! Lastly, if there is any way, try to do something that gets you out of the house and in contact with others – a yoga class, a library program. If you can volunteer to read to kids at school or help out at church or synagogue – that’s even better. I know and understand if that’s NOT possible. I never would have stopped working to stay home with my daughters — and I loved every minute of that, being more involved with their lives. I am more patient and empathetic, more understanding and kind. Y’all hang in there and don’t let pessimism or bitterness harden your hearts — try to see the positive aspects of your illness, the gifts you’ve received and the promise of the future ahead. Smile.

  • A66eyroad

    A quick comment: When my mother had a knee replacement, I found a folding metal “grabber” that she could use to pick up things she’d dropped or reach things — like the TV remote — that were just out of reach. She said that everyone at the rehab hospital wanted to know where she got it! At Brookstone I found a swivel seat she could put in her car (it was like a lazy susan) to keep her from having to bend her knee funny when getting in or out of the car.

  • marty rollo

    lots of great ideas. I have someone who put together a 3 ring binder with the clear page sleeves so I could put all my cards, pictures, dried/pressed flowers in it.

  • Joy

    I really agree with the hugs part – living with my daughter and grandkids has probably saved my sanity as I get the benefit of being hugged daily. Touch is sooo important.

    A comment I wanted to add on the excellent suggestion about letting the sick person know when you are going to the store and seeing if they want anything: Let them know what the limits are! If you really are just making a quick dash in and can pick up one or two essentials, say so. If you’re going for a full grocery shopping and don’t mind picking up a lot of things, be explicit. I find it extremely embarrassing to put someone in the position of saying “no” after they’ve offered OR of realizing that it was too much really and they were just being polite when they offered. On the other hand, I’ve been in the position of asking for too little so as not to take advantage of somebody and finding out later that they wouldn’t have minded doing more.

    Really, anything you do for a sick person is really helpful and wonderful. If you can spell out the parameters of what you can offer, that’s even more wonderful!

  • Julie VanNorman

    Thank you to all of you. To Christine for writing this and to all of you who commented. New to this site, (today), I am so grateful to you all for being there. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you. Having CRPS, (Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome) for 7 years now allows me to relate to many of you and your experiences. Our world becomes so small when the “illness” doesn’t go away. Sometimes I try to explain to others that living with a painful disease is like being in intensive care all the time, and if they would understand this it would be helpful. However, unlike a patient that gets to go to a regular hospital room then home for recovery we often times don’t. But the visits, cards, letters and help stop for us as time goes on. I am so grateful for my daughter who gets this and helps me with everything, but I don’t want to ask her too much so that she can have a life of her own. Thank you all again for being there!

  • Jeff

    Thank you for all your suggestions. My wife is one of those type A personalities who has been taken over by fibro. I’ve found that doing housework and taking her place in caring for things she used to care for speak to her more than any words. Our two miniature dachsunds are her constant friends. I’m a cat person. But by putting my feelings aside and caring for them as she does cuts through her pain unlike anything I can say. Also, reminding her not to feel guilty removes an unnecessary layer of pressure from her. This is how I stand in the gap for her.

  • LC

    I read some of these posts, and it truly breaks my heart. The tears are flowing, for each and every one of you. I have Lupus, and get emotional at times, and even feel sorry for myself at times, but I’m so fortunate to be living with my daughter, son in law and three beautiful granddaughters ages 8, 4, and 4 months. I have the option to go and live by myself, but the best thing for me, is to keep moving and the three little ones, do keep me moving-and sometimes too much. Amazing, how the little ones have the largest impact on my life, and show more care and concern than my adult family members and friends. The amount of compassion that “my” little ones posess, is truly amazing and I now know that, when raising my daughter, that I must have done something right, since she now teaches her children, how to show compassion and empathy. Treat others as you would like to be treated is the lesson my granddaughters have taught me. The little hugs are the best medicine for me.

    I wish you could all feel the hugs that I receive, so since I get so many, I am sending each and every one of you a big hug. For those of you who are alone or want to be friends, you can find me on twitter @icybling01. Please know that you don’t have to be alone-there are total strangers out there that do care, and I’m onme of them!!!!!. NO one should ever feel alone-I’m here for all of you! I have made many friends on Twitter and I encourage you all to find me and I can refer you on to others who suffer from a chronic disease. Good luck to all of you!

  • Rose

    I’ve been bedridden for years. There’s so little I’m able to do that gives me any pleasure and at times I feel totally cut off from the outside world. At one point in my illness I actually asked friends if they could drop me a line (nothing long) on a regular basis so that I could feel part of their lives; a pretty card in the post would be sure to make me smile despite the constant pain and suffering. Well, I was told that I had unreasonable expectations and was making childish requests! (So I was very pleased to gather from the article that other people like to receive cards and this is deemed something “normal” to want/enjoy as an adult). I ended up feeling totally worthless and, as someone else said, wondering whether my friends would care if I lived or died. Time has passed and the people in my life have changed – very much for the better. I’m in a nasty flare up and between them my friends have organised a rota to ensure I receive a card every day. Now I feel so supported and cared about and am guaranteed one nice part to the day!

    Some people don’t have it in them to be good friends to someone who is sick. Others really want to be but don’t know how. This article will be of great help to many. I’m sure plenty of friendships will be strengthened and lives improved as a result of it – thank you!

    Rose

  • shoshana kleiman

    A gift a friend gave me last week: she cleaned and peeled all my vegetables for me. After suffering Lupus nephritis for the last year I’m finally getting on my feet a little. I love to cook. Cooking makes me feel accomplished. But I either get the vegetables clean OR I cook. My friend gave me the gift of being able to create and feel good about myself.

    Another gift my friends gave me: On Saturday afternoons (our sabbath) my friends like to drop in. We all gab away the few hot sultry hours left in the day. And they come every Saturday afternoon. It is a delight since I hardly ever go out, and I don’t attend public functions.

  • Alison

    I know I’m a million years late to this, but I’d just like to second the suggestion of offering to drive the person somewhere occasionally… even if they have a car and a license. I have both and am perfectly capable of driving when necessary, but with fibromyalgia, it’s very painful to do so. Especially since I have a bad knee that hurts when I use my leg/foot to apply downward pressure — and that knee just happens to be on the leg/foot I have to use for braking and accelerating. Of course, the constant fatigue, the daytime sleepiness, and the stress (or even road rage) don’t help. In general, I’m pretty assertive about my needs with friends/family/helpers, but getting a ride somewhere is one thing I won’t request because I’d feel like I’m just being selfish or greedy, wanting someone else to do something I can technically do for myself despite the pain. So having someone offer — even if it’s just one time, or just once in a while — because they know about the difficulties I face when driving and genuinely want to give me a break? Very much appreciated.

  • changed

    @Colleen
    “I’ve always helped everyone all of my life, now, nothing but bills in the mail.

    I find things to keep me occupied, but I tire easily. Some of the suggestions, I think I will just buy myself.”

    This is my situation as well. I really don’t have any true friends here where I live. Nobody who would actually pick something up at the store for me or do something thoughtful like even check on me if I disappeared. The only person who ever checks on me is my landlord when my rent is late lol. I have a couple of friends who live far away who call now and then and that’s nice but it’s not the same.

    When I first became sick and was housebound for a couple of years, not a single “friend” in town ever came by to see me, spend time with me, or even phoned me. I often could not get out to buy groceries which meant I didn’t eat, you know? People would criticize me for ‘not taking care of myself’ (eating properly etc) but they wouldn’t extend any help to facilitate me doing so either. I felt like nobody cared if I was dead or alive. I still feel that way often.

    Those “friends” just stopped contacting me altogether eventually. No more invitations to social outings etc because I’d have to cancel so often or was moody or down when I did make it out. Isolation like that “does things” to you. Nobody understood, or cared. I feel permanently damaged from those years all alone; going a year or more without being physically touched let alone hugged is beyond comprehension for most people. I’m still very much alone.

    On buying things for yourself…sometimes you have to do that. Just to keep going. I’ve bought cards for myself before and written message to myself from myself to hang in there-that it will get better. They would remind me to care about myself even though it felt like nobody else did.

    I’m single and have no support system. This article just made me cry and cry. I stopped expecting any help from anyone long long ago. I don’t even bother asking anymore. I have to stop–the crying is inducing a massive migraine.

    If you have even one friend who helps you in any way or a spouse, be eternally grateful.

  • Nancy

    Thanks for the great article and responses. Just had a friend diagnosed with bilateral breat cancer who also has chronic leukemia. Lucklily in situ, but these gave me some ideas for after her surgery.

  • Colleen

    Excellent, Excellent! Thank you so much! What a wonderful article. I’m a shut in as well and no-one comes to see me except my OT. I talk her ear off, poor woman. She’s my lifeline to the outside world.

    I’ve always helped everyone all of my life, now, nothing but bills in the mail.

    I find things to keep me occupied, but I tire easily. Some of the suggestions, I think I will just buy myself. Thanks for the great article.

    All the best, Colleen

  • I wanted to respond to Robin Cook’s posting. I also have a daughter, she was eight when this illness hit hard and I felt guilty that I couldn’t do everything with her. I made her an “activity box”. I let her design it and we put crayons, paper, arts and crafts things, coloring books, and books etc. That way, she could use her “activity box” when I had down days or was in a flare. She used to call it her”special box”. I also liked the idea of offering someone whose chronically ill if they needed anything at the market. For a while, I was having alot “passing out” episodes which I now know is due to “autonomic neuropathy” and it helped ALOT when others offered to pick up a few things.
    I think Christine was right when she said that we(with the illness) don’t always ask for what we need, afterall alot of us with Lupus seem to have a type A personality. I was always the one doing things for others, so this has been quite a change for me. I think at some point in everyone’s life, they need to accept help. Thanks for suggestions, Jennifer

  • Mary

    One of the most welcome and practical ideas comes from Logan, Utah. When my mother was just out of the hospital, a roster of friends cooked lunch and dinner every day. The great part was that each one made and brought lunch to Mom, setting the table, and making sure that she ate (tricky at times). Dinner was left in the fridge. This gave my mother something and someone to look forward to every day. She often would make coffee to share with her visitor. The women who participated also benefited from the visits, and the meals they prepared were nothing short of wonderful — tuna sandwiches with trimmed crusts, chicken salad with green grapes, poached salmon with a spring vegetable vinaigrette. She ate like the queen she was. My sister and I are convinced that this care, along with keeping Mom in her own house, extended her life.

  • I think the most important thing that people can do for the chronically ill is to keep their promises to help. Too many times over the 17 years I’ve been ill have I had people say the “let me know if you need help,” “call me if you need help cleaning or watching the kids or something.” Yet I have been disappointed many times after I have nerved myself up to ask for the help I actually needed very desperately. It made me bitter for a long time about friendship and what it means to people ,and I realized that I had obviously been a better friend for some reason then I was getting back.

    Now I feel very needy since I can’t be on the “giving” end of the equation very often at all.

  • patricia

    I am permanently homebound. One of my favourite gifts from my husband was a netbook-mini computer that does limited things like web and email.

    Once I had that a very kind friend set me up on facebook and got me running. I now have 186 friends who keep me company on a daily basis!

  • Diane

    One of the nicest gifts I’ve received was from a dear friend in California. Eight years ago my family moved to a remote rural town in Northern Arizona. It is beautiful here and I love it, but with the nearest big town 2 1/2 hours away, Safeway and Walmart are about it for shopping here. I love exotic teas, especially jasmine teas, and try to limit my caffeine intake while increasing my use of green teas for the health benefits. Unfortunately the stores here keep discontinuing the teas I like. My wonderful friend went on vacation to Oregon, and as a total surprise to me, she went on a shopping spree at the Stash Tea Company and sent me a large box filled with over 2 dozen varieties of teas, including at least 7 wonderful varieties of my beloved jasmine teas, as well as some wonderful herbal, white, and green teas. Each box of tea was lovingly selected especially for me, and the thoughtfulness and effort she went to in selecting each box with my tastes in mind, all while on vacation with her family. When I opened the package I was moved to tears because of the love and care that went into it. It really made me feel loved and cared for, even though we lived so far from each other.
    Something else I find soothing and enjoy, and this may sound a little silly coming from a 48 year old woman, is a selection of coloring books and crayons. I don’t know why, but I’ve always found crayons and coloring books to be a soothing activity. Once my youngest son, who was about 10 or 11 at the time, bought me one of those black velvet posters to color in. It was an undersea fantasy picture, and I enjoyed coloring it in. Funny thing, he’s 16 now, and has become quite good at photography as well as pen and ink art and poetry. And if you look into his bedroom, you’ll see the poster hanging on the wall above his bed. And this young man, my youngest of 4 sons, gives the best hugs too. And he makes it a point to hug me at least once every day. These two people in my life are true blessings, and I treasure them both.

    Bright Blessings,

    Diane

  • Emily

    I’m wanting to share that I just had a long-awaited chocolate cake delivered to a friend in a different state who is ill. The JOY in her voice when I heard her message that she received it was so wonderful to hear! Due to my own SLE and other related medical issues/disabilities I’m unable to visit her as she lives now 600 miles away. We talk on the phone and it finally clicked in my head that I could get online and find a local bakery that would deliver her a REALLY GOOD DOUBLE LAYER CHOCOLATE cake that she’s been craving since she stopped working 5 years ago. Much different than the chocolate cakes from the grocery store. And, she is unable to bake at this point in her illness. It made my month, possibly year to be able to do that for her and to hear her happiness and joy!

  • Those are all great ideas. Here are two than I can add, that I am most greatful for: on bad days, my coworkers warm up my food in the microwave and bring it to the table without asking me now. They know when things like opening tupperware or holding things are tough for me. Also, they bring my tea to my workstation after lunch. And when we go out to lunch, one holds my hand bag, one hold the doors for me, and another even helps me with my coat.
    Little things that don’t cost a dime are very much appreciated! I love my coworkers, they are a great bunch!
    Spoons to everyone!

  • Deedra

    Having allergies and cats …flowers are a problem at my house.I recieved a bouquet of carnations and a potted Heather plant for Easter…from my CHILDREN who know better!I put them in the highest 2 spots in the house so I could not smell them and to keep a certain cat out…only to find him scaling the cabinet that night.I appreciate the thought,but it just added getting them OUT of the house to my day.
    My wishlist items were:housecleaning,but no one could find time-I finally hired a girl to do it after asking so many times for help.
    A ride anywhere-my hands,arms and shoulders hurt terribly when I have to drive or push carts.I do have a neighbor who offers some days…but this is a daily problem for me.
    Come visit ME,so I don’t have to drive to see ‘you’.
    GC for hair dresser,food,etc…I can no longer work so the extras are most appreciated.
    But most of all,have patience w/me.I can’t keep up w/you like I used to.Friends actually understand this better than my family.

  • Ericka

    Someone mentioned that people may be allergic to down so to go with a down alternative or hypoallergenic pillow or comforter… I would also check to make sure that the person isn’t allergic to flowers before they were given. Once I was in the hospital, and my best friend got me some very beautiful fake flowers, and I appreciated them as much, if not even more since I wasn’t sneezing and having an allergy attack from fresh flowers.

  • Like what Barbara said, I think it’s the most thoughtful when it’s tailored to what that person really wants or needs. In her case, playing with her daughter. In my case, taking out my dog for one of his daily walks, or even taking him for an afternoon or something. When people do things like that it makes me feel so loved and taken care of. Or when my friends are willing to do the must mundane things to help, like clean my kitchen counters or sit with me (for motivation) as I match up my clean socks or sort through a big pile of papers. I’m very grateful to have great social support in my life. I liked what someone said earlier about getting a gift without any expectation or needing a request/reply/thank-you note, especially immediately. That makes it feel like a real breath of fresh air, instead of oh-what-a-great-thing ok now it’s on my list to call X and thank her for the Y, and now a longer list. I’m a very home-oriented person but I can get out easily, but some people I have worked with have wanted/needed/enjoyed things like going out for ice cream together, going to a movie, helping grocery shop or at least to pick something up at the market here or there, taking a short walk or having a short phone call (short so it’s ok if/when they want to be finished, and so it’s not too tiring). Anyways, those are my ideas. Thanks muchly to everyone out there thinking about this stuff. Is is SO important in the lives of many, many of us. Keep it up.

  • Robin Cook

    I love all these comments and ideas, mine would lean toward anything to do with my 5 YO daughter. It is not her fault that her mom is sick and cant play and do the things she wants all the time. Just having someone to take her for an hour or two of even just come to the house and entertain her would make me smile. Helping with house work is a good one too.
    Thank you soooo much for this website – it has made me smile and feel a bit better on more than one occasion.

  • Barbara Shaw

    How about a massage or hair-styling? So many times a chronically ill person craves a personal, feel-good touch.

  • 4paws

    I find it’s easy to double or triple recipes when I cook and freeze up portions for reheating for someone else. If it is for a family, I pack it in disposable/recyclable aluminum pans for reheating in the oven, or scooping out individual servings to reheat in the microwave.
    For individual meals, I use commercial frozen dinner plates that I pick up at thrift stores, tupperware, or even on dinner plates wrapped with plastic and placed inside gallon freezer zip bags. They can be stacked and the bags reused.
    I’m generally not in the financial bracket to give restaurant/take-out, but I certainly can stretch my grocery budget. It’s good to share what we can.

  • Karen Martin

    One of the best gifts I received when in hospital was a friend offering to go buy birthday cards and gifts for my husband and best friend who celebrated the same week. She brought them to me wrapped; It felt so wonderful to have them at the hospital to give them on their special days!

  • i just wanted to note that the down pillow suggestion is really nice but to keep in mind that some people might be allergic to down (or might be vegan and don’t use down products)… i LOVE the idea of getting a nice new pillow, but i would stick with something hypoallergenic and a down alternative.

  • Morgaine816

    Speaking of being ill, how is Christine doing?

  • Aunt Marsha Gold

    If the person is religious,keeping them in your prayers is really thoughtful. Especially if you live out of town.

  • I can add two more things to this list, easy, that would cheer up most chronically ill friends.
    1) A visual art diary — one of those nice little hardbound watercolor or drawing books you can get at art and craft stores, a set of watercolor pencils and a book on drawing that’s to their level. Watercolor pencil is the easiest medium I know of for beginners, but convenient and challenging for experts. Include a good pointed round brush or one of the new “water in handle” brushes to make washing their drawings easy.
    2) Buy or make them an ACEO or ATC (artist trading card). The size should be 2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ exactly for either, and can be any medium including collage. Get a protective penny sleeve and top loader from a collectible cards store to put it in. These miniature artworks can cheer anyone up — and are fun to make too.
    If you know they already like ATCs and ACEOs, cut a sheet of good watercolor paper into 2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ pieces for them and bring that in a little package tied with a ribbon, and a set of watercolor pencils. It’s much easier to do small artworks in bed and being able to make something real beats just laying there doing what you’re told by medics. A pack of top loaders is a good extra for this one.

  • Brenda

    Here’s something a neighbour friend used to do for me, and I appreciated it so much! (She’s since moved away, and I really miss this small kindness.) Before you go out to do your grocery shopping, give the ill person a call to see if they need anything. Just knowing that you won’t have to worry about getting dressed and going out just for a bag of milk can take such a load off your mind.