How to Support a Friend Going Through a Health Crisis

supportive friend illness
(Photo: iStock)

Sometimes the worst of times are the times when you see the strength and support from those around you. How you are supported or support others when they go through difficult times is influential in the road to recovery.

Lori Ames, founder ThePRFreelancer, Inc. knows this firsthand. When her son was diagnosed with a brain tumor, she found herself in crisis, and needing a lot of help. “Everybody of course says they want to help and to let them know what you need,” Lori told Womanista. “But when dealing with a catastrophic illness situation, you can't even think straight.”

For Lori, it turned out to be the little things that meant the most. Her best friend would stay with her son in the neuro ICU so she could go home and get a hot shower. Other friends provided rides to and from the hospital.

“Sometimes it's the things that seem so minor--feeding someone's animals or changing a litter box, taking in the mail, doing the laundry--that can make such a difference in someone's life,” she says.

Her advice? Don’t ask what you can do to help a friend facing a health crisis, just do something.

That something could be to set up a support page on MedGift, a site that works almost like a registry through which a friend, family member, or caregiver can communicate specific needs.

MedGift was co-founded by reality star Diem Brown before she passed away in November of last year after a battle with ovarian cancer. Despite her significant health challenges, “She had a passion for helping other people,” MedGift's Jim Bodenbender told Womanista.

And people dealing with catastrophic illness need a lot of help. That’s why MedGift aims to coordinate three types of support. First, there’s the financial burden a person faces while going through a health crisis. Financial contributions can help in covering hospital bills, and normal monthly expenses like the mortgage payment and putting food on the table. Second, there’s the emotional trauma a health crisis can inflict, and that’s where the support registry comes in. Finally, the care calendar allows friends and family to coordinate the physical needs of a sick person, from mowing the lawn, to making meals, and picking the kids up from school.

“People want to do something,” Bodenbender says. “If you build a community of support, you’ll be surprised how much support you’ll get.”

Nancy Shenker, Founder and CEO of theONswitch has faced her share of health crises, and agrees many friends want to be there. She specifically appreciated people in her life who checked in often, and even offered to accompany her to medical appointments. For Nancy, it was also the little things that made the biggest impact, like sending over food, babysitting, and running errands.

She offers this advice to anyone who may have a friend dealing with a health issue:

  • Don’t assume what's good for them, but ask what they need.
  • Don’t chatter on and on about your own health problems.
  • Don’t avoid talking about what’s going on.

Above all, just be there.

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