Creating a System of Support When Living with a Chronic Condition

Chronic Condition
Chronic Condition

When we’re living with a chronic condition, engaging the support of our family and close friends can make a world of difference.

Social support when ill can help us feel connected, protected, and cared for by our loved ones. It can help us through the tough times when our health is failing, and all seems lost. But perhaps most importantly, cultivating a strong support system gives us a reason to keep going when we would prefer to give up.

Here’s how to do it.

Step 1. Decide Which Friends and Family Members Will Be Part of Your Support System

The first step to creating your support system is to choose who makes the cut.

Consider engaging close friends and family members who are sensitive, reliable, and supportive of your needs as a chronically ill person.

For example, a non-judgmental friend won’t ever think any less of you when it all gets too hard, and you just want to break down and cry. Instead, they’ll be by your side – wiping the tears from your cheeks, and supporting you with a shoulder to cry on.

Step 2. Communicate Your Needs and Requirements to Members of Your Support Network

So, what do you need from your support system when you’re chronically unwell? Now is the time to communicate those requirements to them.

Consider asking members of your support network for assistance with:

  • Daily chores and tasks around the house, such as cooking and cleaning.
  • Running errands like going to the bank or the post office.
  • Attending doctors’ appointments and medical check-ups.
  • Tending to your physical needs, such as bathing and dressing.

Perhaps the most important need of all, though? Your loved ones’ ability to help you share light-hearted moments that cut through the bleak reality of living with a chronic illness. As the saying goes, laughter is the best medicine, and seeing the bright side of difficult situations can help ease the burden of being chronically unwell.

Step 3. Set Up Clear and Realistic Personal Boundaries

Yes, your loved ones have agreed and committed to being part of your support system. But are they on board with your expectations?

Of course, you will be eternally grateful for their assistance and support – but that doesn’t give them the right to overstep the mark, or make important medical decisions on your behalf.

Ensure your loved ones understand that they are there to support you, not provide unsolicited advice. To support this, remind them that if you need medical advice, you can obtain this from licensed medical practitioners.

Step 4. Obtain Professional Medical Advice and Support

While having the support and assistance of your network of family and friends is, of course, invaluable, it doesn’t replace professional medical treatment and care.

The logical next step, then, is to obtain professional advice from a supportive team of medical practitioners – such as treating doctors and clinical nurses who have completed online agnp programs, and who are qualified to provide you with the best level of care for your chronic condition.

Step 5. Connect With Support Groups and Other Community Resources

The unfortunate truth? Not all of us have the luxury of an extended family or a large circle of close friends to build up our support system.

The good news? You don’t need to feel alone. There exists an abundance of community support groups you can connect with in your area to ensure you’re not isolated while experiencing chronic illness.

You can locate local peer support groups via your community noticeboard, or by seeking them out in the online space. Facebook support groups for the chronically ill can be particularly instrumental in helping individuals feel connected to others experiencing common situations.

Living with chronic illness is never easy. But if you have a strong system of support, this can help ease the load.

So how do you build a strong support system?

First, identify who in your social network is best placed to provide the kind of support you need. Next, ensure they understand your requirements as someone who is chronically ill. Be sure to also establish clear boundaries, so as not to let your well-meaning loved ones override your wishes. Calling on advice and support from medical professionals is also essential. Lastly, feeling isolated? You can connect with community support groups for chronically ill individuals – both online and in the real world.

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