September 01, 2021

Helping a sick friend

When a friend is navigating a serious illness, it can be hard to know how to be supportive. Use these tips to best offer a hand or an ear:

  • Connect regularly — Send brief, frequent notes or text messages or make short phone calls. Call at times that work best for your friend and return messages quickly.
  • Visit with limits — Visits can offer a welcome distraction and sense of normalcy. But don't overdo it. Call beforehand to make sure it's a good time. Schedule regular visits, but keep them short, especially if you sense your friend is becoming fatigued. While you visit, focus on your friend's interests and abilities.
  • Be willing to listen — Try to hear and understand how your friend feels, even if you must put your own feelings and fears aside. Active listening sends an important message that your friend is heard and supported.
  • Know what to say — Keep the conversation flowing if your friend has the energy. Ask questions and for advice or opinions. Focus on topics that bring up positive emotions, but also resist the urge to change the subject if the conversation takes a negative turn. Don't offer medical advice or insert your opinions on treatments, diet and alternative remedies.
  • Make a clear offer — While "How can I help?" may seem thoughtful, it places the burden on your friend to come up...