How to Offer Help to a Sick Friend Without Overstepping Boundaries

It can be heartbreaking when a friend is diagnosed with a devastating illness. It may be an uncomfortable situation at first, and you may feel puzzled on how to best show up for them. To be a good friend, you must show up and support them in a way that respects their boundaries. 

There are plenty of ways to support and care for others, but you need to show your compassion without overwhelming them. On the other hand, those with illness may need more support than usual during this time. The following tips are ways for you to support your friend while they are going through a difficult period in their life:

Send Positivity

Life can feel quite gloomy when sick, even with less serious conditions like colds or the flu. Going the extra mile to share good vibes with your friend will likely brighten their day. Get well soon gifts, for example, are great ways to lift the spirits of anyone feeling under the weather. A self-care basket that includes soup, meds, and a blanket is a useful and considerate gift that can help them get through a tough time. 

Words are another great way to share positivity. Texting occasional words of encouragement or memes can put a smile on their face. If you want to do something more special, writing a handwritten note will leave a lasting impression, and it is something they can keep nearby and reread easily. However you decide to cheer up your friend, keep your interactions genuine and considerate.

Keep Them Included

When your pal is dealing with illness, they may not have the strength to reach out when they need support or want to connect. Simply being there and reaching out on your own terms can help them feel better. Continue to invite your friend to group outings and casual get-togethers. Low-key hangouts like movie nights and coffee dates may be easier for them to commit to, as they are likely dealing with low-energy. They may not always feel up to joining, but offering is important. So is giving them grace when they’re not feeling well. It will help them feel supported and understood. 

It is important to consider that your friend may or may not enjoy talking about their struggles during this time either. While some people get relief from discussing their health, some may want to get their minds off the topic or protect their privacy. You may need to ask your friend directly about their preferences to understand their comfort level. Everyone deals with challenges in their own way, and it’s crucial to respect their boundaries. 

Acts of Service

When people get diagnosed with an illness, it can take a toll. Serious conditions like cancer can affect the everyday lives of those fighting the disease. During this time, offering acts of service to your friend can put a bright spot in their day. Take note of any small tasks that you can take off of their plate. Offering to provide food, whether bringing them groceries or making dinner, can help, especially if they’re a parent with more mouths to feed. Driving them to treatments or medical procedures can also make them feel cared for. 

Keep in mind that your friend may not want nor need this type of support from you. They may prefer to rely on family or other friends. Even if they don’t take you up on your offer, there are still ways for you to show your consideration without intruding. Sending gift cards for food, groceries, and self-care is another way to lift the weight of their needs without invading. For those in a hospital bed, a small act like tidying up the room can make a difference in their day.

Bedside Support

Those with serious illness may need special levels of support during a hospital stay. Entertainment may be hard to come by and could be a perfect assignment for you. Bring games, movies, or books to give them activities to do to pass the time. Organize times to gather in the room and be sure to include them in the latest gossip. Scheduling routine online activities like gaming, streaming together, or video calls are other ways to help them stay connected.

During this time, your friend may also need assistance in setting boundaries. While it’s good for them to receive support, they also need to rest. They don’t want to be overwhelmed with visitors. Make sure you get a pulse on how your friend is feeling and determine appropriate times for visiting. Make sure they are happy with the amount of time they are spending with others. 

Be There

If one of your close friends has been recently diagnosed with a serious illness, it can be difficult to process. You may feel emotional at the thought of losing them, and your relationship will need to change for a while. These are valid fears, but it’s important to show up as a supporter. Your friend’s diagnosis could be affecting their mental health outside of their illness symptoms, and they may need a community now more than ever. By showing up in a caring way through effort and compassion, you can be a bright spot in their life.