Meeting Up With My Chronically Ill Friend.
I know and understand how challeneging it is to be so close to a chronically ill individual.
You know how they struggle, how they spend most of their days bedridden or in and out of hospital. You know they can't 'go with the flow' or do an all nighter ripping up the town. So what can you do or suggest.
It works both ways it is hard for us to get into the minds of 'well' friends as it's difficult for you to get into our minds as 'poorly' people.
Communication is key. Flexibility is ideal and options are greatly appreciated.
It is best to try and put yourself in the shoes of your loved one. How do you feel when you a struck down with flu or a sickness bug? What do you feel like doing? Yes you need rest but after a couple of days in bed you begin getting restless and are truly fed up of the same four walls.
Now you wouldn't go signing up for that go ape trip or a six hour shopping trip when you are still feeling fragile. What would you consider doing?
Coffee and cake? A cinema trip? A catch up gossip? Drink at the local pub? Movie afternoon? Meal out?
Offer suggestions that are not too overwhelming or stressful. Options that won't panic the individual or make them feel they must refuse the offer and yet again miss out ( them never blaming you, but themselves for not being well enough ).
Key 🔑 factors that may help;
- Think of events or ideas that have a short time window ( 2-3 hours max ). This stops the individual worrying that they will burn out or not be able to hack the time frame.
- Stay local. When you are feeling unwell, you don't want to be too far away from home.
- Make sure there is seating!! Your loved one will no doubt need to rest.
- Plan in advance. Give the individual time to get their heads around having plans, ensure they don't overdo it the day before and then have to cancel and also so they can get all their medications done and dusted.
- at home catch up
- coffee at a coffee shop
- shopping with wheel chair in tow or agree 'coffee', 'rest breaks'
- theatre play
-open mic night
- meal out
- pub quizzes
- group dinner party
Giving the individual a few options is also an amazing move. It shows understanding and this will put the individual at ease about coming out with you.
If the individual is struggling to make a decision over what to do. Accept this, they are going through brain fog and sleeplessness no doubt. Thinking straight is hard enough. Let alone making decisions.
So give them a helping hand.
Firstly ask what is there top option but why they are doubting it and then share your top option and why.
If your options match, there is your answer.
If they don't - way up the pros and cons. Ask them what the pros are and what are the factors putting them off.
As if the cons are say - the event is too long you can agree a time 'cap' where you can have a code word that when you have been there two hours you can both check in and make your excuses to leave if you are ready.
If the cons involve transport offer transport advice, train times, life options or off a lift.
Then focus on the pros to encourage them to go with the plan;
So it may be your friend being able to meet up with other friends she hasn't seen in a while. It is a sunny day, she can see the sun for a little while. It gives him/her a break from her house for a few hours.
Then hopefully without you saying 'let's go.' Or 'let's leave it until you feel better.' They will be able to make their own decisions.
If at this point your friend is struggling still with the decision put your foot down and agree to go yet understand you may have to be flexible with time, place and type of event so that your friend will come and feel comfortable.
It may be a little stressful and a longer process for both parties to do something that on the surface seems simple. But please bare in mind that your friend appreciates your efforts greatly and be respectful of the hard work it takes for them to simple walk out of the door.
Chronic illness is a lonely place to find yourself within. We don't want to hassle you. We don't want to be the Deb downers of your life because we can't go out drinking and dancing all night. We become fearful of asking you out as our plans of coffee or the cinema seem boring and more of a waste of your time than a benefit. So you coming to us with plans, ideas and offering to make the effort means the total world.
What do I do if I an hosting an event that I know my friend can't handle?
The key here is not to leave your friend out. You and they know they can't cope with the event you are hosting or wanting to take part in. We don't want or expect you to miss out or change your plans around us. Though out of politeness it is always respectful to invite them regardless. Put yourself in their shoes for a moment - you never get invited then you are faced with endless amazing pictures all over social media the next day. You would feel left out, forgotten and invisible. The best route to go down if you find yourself in this situtation is to contact your friend, inviting them along but explaining you understand it may be a little to much for them. If you can offer ideas that may mean they may be able to come along.
Example : it's your birthday you want to hit the town.
You know you are going to be out all night until the early hours. However you won't be going out until 10/11pm. So you could suggest pre-drinks at a local pub, bar or at your house before going out where your friend could join you for a few hours before the craziness really kicks off.
Get some pictures and catch up on gossip so your friend feels a part of the event.
Another option is to have a meal or invite yourself for dinner before you head out. So then again your friend has been invited, a part of the event, seen some of your other friends if you have a 'meal' and has been out just a few hours.
Yes unfortunately they won't be in all the main pictures or at the main event but there were still able to be there for you, be a part of the celebrations in some way and they will be so, so grateful for your invite and you being so flexible to accommodate them as it will show them that you appreciate them and their friendship too.
My friend is very poorly, I don't want to be alone with them incase something happens. What do I do?
This is another tough situation. You want to see your friend, you miss them but you know how unwell they are and complications may happen at anytime.
If you are faced with this issue it is best to organise group events. Whether this means inviting other friends along, their family members or your family members.
A few ideas to consider;
-A meal at your house. You are giving your friend a different change of scene but your family will be around you if you need them. Alternatively if you don't live with your family you could brand your event as a come dine with me where you invite a number of friends and all bring a dish for you all to enjoy. Again so there are a couple of you around.
-A group cinema trip. Lots of us now have 'meerkats' so ring up the gang and round up a few of you to enjoy a film. It's a good two hours which isn't too long for your friend either.
-BBQ whether it is with friends and family! It's a 'people's' event the more the merrier so your friend won't even realise it is because you need more support.
-A coffee in a cafe. There will be plenty of staff and other customers around who will be trained in First Aid too.
-Pub quizzes, you need a team of people here so it's a good option. It is also a shorter event so nothing too stressful.
You don't have to raise you concerns to your friend about feeling uncomfortable about being out with them alone if you don't want to with the ideas above. However, I feel that communication is important and being open and honest with your friend may help them understand why you haven't met up sooner or always do group events.
They too may have ideas to bring to the table.
Communication is so important.
If you don't want to upset your friend with your concerns express them to other friends, your family or your friend's family so then they may be able to offer a helping hand or share advice.
They won't come to any events? I want to be there for them and see them. I miss them! What do I do?
Sometimes your friend will be too poorly to come to events and/or being going through a tougher time with flare ups, mood and/or treatments.
You want to show you are there for them and you miss this greatly. So what can you do?
The best thing here is to pick up the phone and call. Have a good old phone catch up gossip. Your friend will know you are there for them and that you haven't forgotten them because they have been socially unavailable.
You could also suggest a Skype or FaceTime call so you feel like you are having a proper catch up and you are in the same room if you felt you preferred this and your friend agreed. Seeing you and speaking to you in this way may encourage them to be flexible and meet up for coffee, go round to your house or invite you to their place. It may also help you feel like you have indeed seen and met up.
Sometimes we have to take small steps and work on a daily basis.
It is a truly difficult task on both sides of the fence. With communication, flexibility and a little thought we really can make it work.
All the effort you make is truly appreciated. You simply have to try and put yourself in your friend's shoes and think about about how you would want to be treated and how you would be coping.
You may at times feel like your hard work is ignored by your friend. If they continue to decline or cancel on you. Just know they really are so, so grateful to you and for your efforts but they may simply be going through a rough period. They may be experiencing more flare ups or treatments that may be taking more out of them. They may not be as thankful as they should to your face but just know that they are, a lot of time the pain takes off and causes the person to be irritatable and sometimes rude. That isn't the real them. They will just be upset at their pain and being unable to spend time with you when they would love nothing more.
I hope this blog helps you understand and has given you some useful ideas about how to conquer this difficult situtation.
Let me know if you have a friend or loved one suffering from chronic illness. Share your stories with me. How do you social with them and how flexible do you have to be!?
Sharing helps in so many ways.
Communication is key, flexibitly is ideal and options are greatly appreciated.
If you learn nothing from today I hope you remember the line above and use it to help you plan your meet ups in the future.
Sharing is caring - keep spreading the awareness, love to all and kindness you can show.
Enjoy the rest of your bank holiday and get on that phone to your friend. Your voice will make their day, use one of my ideas and let me know how you get on!