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How to help a friend struggling with illness

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This story is sponsored by Minky Couture. Learn more about Minky Couture.

Many people will experience the unique pain that is watching a loved one suffer from a chronic illness. Since you can't take the pain or suffering away, it seems impossible to help.

But there are several ways you can support and help ease the normal burdens of life for someone suffering. Here are seven suggestions for effectively assisting someone through a difficult time.

Practice active listening

Mental and physical illness takes a physical and emotional toll. One of the best ways to support someone currently battling disease is to learn to actively listen. Many times, people don't want someone to fix their problems, but just listen to them.

The Mayo Clinic notes, "Never underestimate the value of your presence. Even if it feels as if you're not doing anything, your presence sends an important message."

To listen effectively, Forbes recommends facing the speaker and maintaining eye contact, keeping an open mind, don't interrupt and don't share your solutions, and ask questions only to ensure understanding.

Offer the comfort of a custom-made blanket

You can’t be there all the time, but you can be vicariously through a thoughtful comfort object. The Utah-based company, Minky Couture, was created when the owner's own daughter was ill and hospitalized. The homemade blanket brought so much comfort that she decided to extend that feeling to others.

“A blanket does more than provide comfort, it can cheer up a room instantly. Not only are hospital linens stark white, but they are also often rough and scratchy, making a warm and comfortable blanket a cheery addition,” Very Well Health says.


Study-up on the illness

Show a loved one how much you care by taking the time to learn the nitty gritty details of what their life is probably like.

“Knowing the basics of your friend’s condition can help you better understand what life is like for them,” Self recommends. Put yourself in your loved one's shoes with this new knowledge, and you'll likely come up with service or things that could help improve their life.

Help with specific tasks

Most people balk at the idea of letting someone help, especially when it comes to menial tasks. Making someone sacrifice time out of their day might make one feel undeserving. But, the fact remains that all people need help from time to time.

As a friend of someone suffering with illness, be prepared to offer meaningful assistance. Avoid the oft-used phrase, “Let me know if I can do anything.” You won’t get anywhere with that. Instead, come prepared with ideas of how you plan to help or brainstorm together.

If you don't know where to start, consider assisting with pet care, child care, arranging transportation for necessary treatments, organizing the payment of bills, caring for plants, obtaining medication refills, and helping with laundry.

All of these tasks might seem ordinary to a healthy person but can seem overwhelming and impossible to someone with an illness.

Organize food delivery or meal services

Find out if your friend belongs to any church groups, clubs or organizations that would be interested in helping with meals as needed. Provide the group with contact information and dietary information (allergies and other restrictions) to help with planning.

If your friend is hesitant to allow friends to bring in meals, gift cards for Grubhub, DoorDash or Seamless food delivery services are a huge help.

No matter what you do for a suffering friend or family member, your love and efforts will be appreciated. Remember to give them the space —and support — they might need.

If you're not physically near your loved one, consider sending a comforting gift. Minky Couture offers custom designs and sizes to fit the need of every individual. Shop their fabrics and patterns today to make the perfect blanket for your loved one.