How Families Can Be Supportive When Illness Strikes


Your wife has been having mystery symptoms for about a year. You both laughed it off. But then things got serious. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. 

This is catastrophic news, but you have no idea what to say. Even worse, you don’t know what to do? What do you do?

While you can’t cure her illness, there are a few things you can do to help your family members when illness strikes.


Understand the illness

The first step to helping a loved one overcome an illness is to understand that illness fully. In some cases, it starts with changing your perspective. For example, did you know that addiction is actually a disease? With so many young people struggling with addiction, this is an important distinction. Addiction is a disease of the brain just like any mental illness.

Whether your loved one’s illness is physical, mental or both, start doing your research. Don’t rely solely on your family member to give you the details. Do your own research, so you can better understand what she’s going through. You may even learn a thing or two that can help her along her journey.


Be an advocate

When someone you love gets sick, they may or may not be able to advocate for themselves. It really depends on the illness and how they’re feeling. If they cannot handle the decision-making on their own, it’s up to you to become their advocate. Ask doctors the tough questions and help your family member make decisions. If it’s your child who is sick, talk to your spouse about the best course of action.

If your loved one is of age and has her wits about her, you may have to toe a line here. You can (and should) still advocate for your family member. Just try not to be overbearing. If she asks you to back off, do so. Even if you think she’s making the wrong choices, remember that these choices are hers to make.


Take on extra duties

If your spouse gets sick, it’s time for you and the kids to up your domestic game. Maybe it’s already strong, and that’s awesome, but try to find other tasks you can take off her plate.

You can do laundry, drop-offs and pickups from school, make lunches, make dinner and organize family time. These are just some ideas, but take a look at what she’s currently doing and what you can handle instead.

Giving her extra time can help her relax and de-stress, which is crucial when you’re ill. Whether it’s a cold or cancer, stress makes everything worse.


Become an emotional support

You’re probably already a great emotional support for your loved ones, but this is the perfect time to ask yourself if you could do better. What can you do to further support your family member. Maybe it’s sending her to a spa or giving her time to take a relaxing bubble bath. Maybe it’s just listening to her struggles. Do whatever you can to support your loved one’s mental health during a time of illness.


Take care of yourself

If you’re doing this right, you’ll be taking on some extra responsibilities for a while. If it ever becomes too much, don’t be afraid to let someone know. Ask friends and family members to take over a task or two. Or, if you have the means, consider hiring someone to help.

These days, there are so many ways we can save time, if we’re willing to spend a little extra money. Most grocery store chains offer grocery delivery (sometimes it’s even free). You can have almost anything delivered by Favor and you can get odd jobs completed by runners on TaskRabbit.

We’re living in an age where you can outsource virtually any part of your life that you don’t want to handle. Except the emotional stuff. We can’t outsource that.

Once you free up time, do something that’s just for you. Even if it’s relaxing with some friends and watching football, it’s important to take care of your physical and emotional self while you’re taking care of someone else. As they say, you should always inflate your own life vest first.

No one wants to see a loved one in pain. And while we can’t take it away, we can come together to help make life just a little bit more pleasant.