How to Support a Family Member Battling Health Problems


Life and uncertainties are unpredictable. No matter how much you plan or think you are ready for something, there will always be curveballs. Sudden health issues are one of those curveballs that can knock you down. Whether it’s a diagnosis, a chronic illness, or an injury, it can be tough to see a loved one go through something that shreds their quality of life.

In such a crisis, you wish to become their pillar of strength and comfort. You want to magically make the pain disappear so your beloved can feel better and get back on their feet. Sadly, it’s the real world where magic doesn’t work. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it. You can.

5 Ways to Support a Loved One Struggling With Health Problems

1. Understand What They’re Going Through

Sadly, we are surrounded by toxins and chemicals that can harm our health. From the food we eat to the air we breathe, countless dangers are lurking around us. And sometimes, it’s our habits and choices that put us at risk. So, it’s essential to try and understand what your loved one is dealing with daily.

For instance, if your elderly grandfather has been diagnosed with dementia, learn about the condition and what to expect. It will help you understand his behavior and know how to better communicate with him.

Likewise, suppose you share your home with a navy veteran battling mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos during their service. In that case, you’ll need to find a different way to help them. Here, you can research and look for support groups or organizations that can help. The mesothelioma veterans center is a good resource. Legal help may also be necessary to get the benefits and compensation they deserve. 

2. Change With Them

The emotional stress of changing a lifestyle to adapt to a sudden health problem can be tough on your family member. They might feel like they’re losing control, and everything that made their life enjoyable is now gone.

Whether it’s dietary restrictions, less mobility, and having to give up certain activities they enjoy, it’s important to be understanding and try to make changes with them. Just because their life has changed doesn’t mean it has to be all doom and gloom.

We know kale isn’t as fun as a cheeseburger, but try to be open-minded about new recipes and meal ideas. Be willing to go on more walks or do physical activities that they can still enjoy. The goal is to help them find joy in the little things and remind them that their life isn’t over. It’s just different now. Plus, you’ll also observe positive changes in your health.

3. Be There for Them

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that change can be tough on a person, especially if it’s something they’re not expecting. Your loved one might feel isolated, lost, and like they’re carrying the world’s weight on their shoulders. So, it’s important to be there for them as much as possible.

It can mean taking them to appointments, attending support groups, being their shoulder to cry on, or just lending a listening ear.

Sometimes, the patient may also forget or purposely delay taking their medication. In such a case, you need to be firm yet understanding. Help them create a schedule or system that will help remind them to take their pills on time.

Likewise, look for ways to make their life easier, like getting them a wheelchair if they’re having trouble walking or hiring a home health aide to help with the housework.

You might not be able to fix their problems, but knowing that you’re there for them makes all the difference. 

4. Provide Emotional Support

Since our physical and mental well-being is interlinked, offering an emotional cushion works like a magic pill. Depression is quite common among patients having chronic illnesses. You can look for warning signs like a change in sleeping patterns, loss of appetite, lack of energy, or social withdrawal to detect it.

If any of these changes surface, set everything aside and talk to them about how they feel. Exhibit empathy and try to understand what they’re going through. Often, just knowing that someone cares can make all the difference.

You can also encourage them to see a therapist or counselor if they face difficulty dealing with their emotions.

And when they pour out their heart to you, resist the urge to offer solutions or try to fix their problems. Maybe they aren’t looking for advice. Just be a good listener. 

5. Offer Practical Assistance

How would you feel if you were burdened with the mundane chores of everyday life while also dealing with a severe health problem? It would probably be pretty tough, right? So, offer to help with the practical stuff to lighten their load.

It’s easier when the person lives with us or is close by as you can walk to the next room or block and help them out. But, if they live far away, offer to do things remotely like paying their bills, getting groceries delivered to their house, or even just checking in on them regularly.

You can also help with things around the house like cooking, cleaning, or running errands for them. If it’s not too much for you, schedule a day or two weekly where you can be their helper. It might seem too much initially, but with time it’ll become a part of your routine.


It’s never easy to deal with the trauma of a family member battling a health problem. The constant fear of losing them, the unwanted thoughts, and the feeling of helplessness can be too much for anyone to handle. So, while you put your best “here-to-help” foot forward, don’t forget to take care of yourself too. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed or burnt out sometimes. When you do, step back and clear your head. You can’t pour from an empty cup.

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