How Not To Behave Around Ill People
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Health and Wellness

How Not To Behave Around Ill People

Even if you have good intentions, things can be misinterpreted.

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How Not To Behave Around Ill People
Kristina Litvjak

When a loved one is diagnosed with a severe illness, people are typically unsure of how to behave and of what to say. You may want to offer your helping hand, but struggle to find the right words or gestures that will actually be of assistance to this person. This often leads to miscommunication and thoughtless remarks, even from the most well-meaning of people.

1. Helping When They Ask For Help

. . . Not when you have time to help. More often than not, many people who are sick do not like asking for help. It is great that people try visit and offer support to their ill family members or friends, but please, please, please, do not say, “if you’re ever in a bind, call me, and I’ll help out,” knowing that this person doesn’t ask for help much, if you have no intensions of following through. Because when you are taken up on this offer, and you tell them that you can’t rearrange your hair appointment to help out, please do not get discouraged if they do not ask for help again. Don’t get take it personally, and stay in touch anyway.

2. Not Talking About Their Illness

Sometimes, sick people do not want any more reminders that they are sick. It is great to keep people company in your spare time, but doing so does not need to involve hounding them with questions about their treatment. Sometimes, they do not need to be reminded how sick they are. Sometimes, all you need to say is that this person is in your thoughts.

3. Not Undermining The Reality Of Their Illness

Positivity is a good thing for your mental health, especially in times of distress. But if something is miscommunicated, it can seem like you are undermining just how serious this person’s illness really is. Telling someone with a hidden disability that they “look good” doesn’t really help much because whatever illness they have is not visible. You can’t see if someone has cancer. You can’t see if someone is clinically depressed. You can’t see if someone struggles with suicidal thoughts or anxiety. So when you are told that this person is struggling, or that their condition is worsening, don’t say, “Oh, well, you look good!” That’s like saying, “Oh, well, you’re good at covering up your illness!” Well, thanks, but I’m trying to throw a pity party over here.

4. Offering Unsolicited Advice

Not everybody wants the same kind of support. Some people are open and honest about their conditions, while others just want to maintain their independence as much as possible.Don’t offer ideas on why this person got sick, or assume that you know more about this person’s illness that he/she does. Listen to your friend and pay attention to the details they do offer regarding to their condition.

5. Asking Inappropriate Questions

When you’re close with someone, it’s easy to let down barriers, and be completely open around them. This makes it easy for people to ask inappropriate questions, even if they’re meant well. Asking someone with an incurable disease when they’re ending treatment may not be the best way to address your concern or curiosity.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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