When you are poorly, you expect your family to rally around you and help you out. The same thing works vice versa. However, it can be tough to work out how best to help and where your particular skills will come in useful.

For long term illness, it is really important that families work together to keep each other’s spirits up and ensure that the ill person is able to continue leading a wholesome life. You might not realize just how much of a difference bringing a vat of soup could make.

Be Practical as Well as Kind

When someone is ill, we often go to the most obvious things first: Flowers and fruit. We tend to give gifts like this because they are an easy way to express sympathy and show that we care but the gifts themselves are usually well received.

While giving gifts is certainly kind, if everyone brings fruit then they quickly lose their appeal. Instead, ask what will make the most difference and be more practical. Sure, hand sanitizer that smells nice might not seem like a big deal, but it could be a great help.

Make Specific Offers of Help

Another common trait is to say things like, ‘let me know if you need anything.’ Again, this is a kind sentiment but it makes it a bit awkward for someone who needs more than a kind word. Instead, asking someone how you can help is more personal, or you could offer specific kinds of help.

For example, you could offer to make some meals to put in the freezer or you could suggest that you come and clean for an afternoon. Another great way to help is to run errands like going food shopping which might be more laborious for other family members. Asking for and offering more specific types of help gives your relative an idea of what it is okay for them to ask of you and just how much you are prepared to take on.

Talk and Listen

Talking and listening is one of the fundamental differences that makes us humans and not just animals. We are able to discuss serious choices and dilemmas and help each other come to a sensible conclusion. When relatives are sick, this is critical as making a decision about which medical route to take or whether a hospice and palliative care could be suitable is almost impossible to make alone.

Being there to listen and offer opinions is just as important as filling the fridge and could make a real difference to your relative’s emotional and mental health. Steer clear of empty greeting card phrases like I’m sorry or I hope you get better soon. Instead, try to say something more honest, even if that means saying I don’t know what to say.

We often don’t appreciate just how strong our families are until someone falls ill but when it comes to caring for our relatives, we are remarkably capable. Even if you arrive at their house without a plan, sitting and listening to their needs is the best way to see how you can help.

I am no stranger to taking care of a sick relative, or grieving the loss of my mother. Comment below if you’d lost someone after watching them suffer.

Photo Credit: Photo by Carli Jeen on Unsplash