When you or someone you care for is seriously ill , there are many down to earth ways which can make all the difference in creating the essential mix of hope and healing. For the patient/health advocate team on the journey of a major sickness together, always think of it in terms of the “we” relationship, including engaging others to help.
WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP?
- Offer to be a conduit of information, and be the clinic companion.
- Offer to check online health information to make sure it is ‘gold standard’.
- Become an information gatherer, or find out who to contact for a ‘second opinion’ if that is what is wanted.
- Find out if there are additional nursing, caring services, or group support in the local area.
- Build up hope. Avoid the statistics of the negative and provide opportunities for encouragement at all times.
- Always support a decision once it has been made.
WHAT CAN WE SAY TO HELP?
- Be a good listener. We do not have to talk about the problem or be giving advice all the time.
- Maximise the laughs. Laughter is the best medicine.
- Be relentlessly encouraging among friends and family, and cultivate the friends with the most positivity.
- Be ready for those thoughtless remarks that can sometimes drop into conversations, and if necessary be prepared to challenge them.
- Be open to talking about spiritual questions, but don’t feel that there have to be answers or that we have to provide them. Share what wisdom we have, and be equally confident and supportive in the silences.
- Be honest. Avoid giving false reassurance or only dwelling on heroic tales of recovery.
- Help the people visiting to be as normal as possible. It does not need to be all serious.
- Help people to understand that we are different as a result of the illness.
- If your patient friend doesn’t want to talk about ‘it’, that is OK.
WHAT CAN WE GIVE TO HELP?
- Flowers and plants at home. Yes, men like flowers too.
- Borrow a footbath from a local pedicurist for a home treat.
- Give cashmere bed socks.
- Give a loose-fitting pair of cotton trousers.
- Help with the cooking.
- Offer to find somebody who can provide a home massage.
- Suggest a talking book if your patient friend is too tired to keep their eyes open.
LONGER TERM WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP?
- Plan treats ahead so there is always something to look forward to.
- Check out whether other members of the family are coping.
- Offer to set up a supper rota.
- Offer to set up a group email.
- Offer to find out about grants and financial entitlements.
- If your patient friend is keen on alternative medicine, find out what is available locally. If they are paying for it, check that they are not being exploited. Also check out what is available on the NHS locally.