Senior Citizen's Guide digital books
Senior Citizen's Guide to Baltimore

When a Friend is Ill

You’ve just received the kind of phone call we all dread. A close friend has been diagnosed with a serious illness. You’re shocked and shaken. Maybe you’re thinking, “It can’t be,” or “What’s going to happen now?” As upset as you feel, you are even more concerned for your friend.

When someone we’re close to develops a serious illness, we may not know what to say, or we fear we will say the wrong thing. There is also a natural tendency to want to protect ourselves from the knowledge that “this could happen to me, too.” When a dear one is ill, we are all afraid.

Brushes with mortality can be intimidating. These fears, however, rob a friend of our loving support at the time when it is most needed. When someone feels abandoned by health and good fortune, adding social abandonment can really hurt. So, as friends, we can’t allow our fears to be paralyzing.

None of us has the answers at times like this, but asking supportive questions is the key. Here are some helpful hints, from the perspective of the person who is ill. I’ve learned these by being on both sides of that helping equation.

Keeping my household running and getting to appointments are some of my biggest worries. Informal scheduling of volunteer meals and rides is a great help, but there are also free web tools (see ”Lotsa Helping Hands” and “CareCalendar”) for organizing that help.

The old cliché, “A friend in need is a friend indeed,” takes on new meaning when life presents us with the unexpected and unwelcome challenge of illness. Remember that feeling your warmth and kindness is healing for your friend. Keep your support simple and responsive to the person who has the illness.

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