Are you afraid that you may be saying impolite or rude things to people with chronic illnesses?
What is a chronic illness? Chronic disease is a condition that lasts a year or more and needs ongoing medical attention. Often, chronic diseases also limit one’s daily living activities.
This makes it hard to talk to someone suffering from one. Most people are afraid that they’ll come off as offensive or rude towards that person. To avoid this, these are the things you shouldn’t say when talking to people with chronic illnesses.
1. You Don’t Look Sick
Six in ten US adults have a chronic disease. Often, chronic diseases get referred to as invisible diseases. Examples of chronic diseases include heart disease and cancer.
The symptoms aren’t always visible. Thus, most people think saying “You don’t look sick” reads as a compliment. However, this doesn’t make a person who has it less sick or at risk.
When you say this to a person with chronic disease, they’ll perceive that you’re saying they’re faking it. Instead, ask them how they’re feeling on that day. You can also give a compliment.
2. It Could Be Worse
Before you say anything like this, remember that you don’t know anything about a person’s hardships. It may sound comforting in some way. However, it also has an underlying message of “suck it up.”
Be honest if you don’t know what to say to a person who shared their experience with you. Listen and be there for them while they talk about their chronic illness.
3. You Seem Fine Most of the Time
When most people have flaws or problems with their body, they try to hide it as best as they can. For example, women like to put on makeup to hide oily skin or acne. They put a lot of money, time, and effort into hiding what they think is a weakness.
When people are dealing with chronic illness, they do the same thing.
The effort needed to achieve a “normal” life is monumental. For people who don’t know what it’s like to live with a chronic disease, the amount of effort to look fine is unimaginable. Compliment them instead.
4. You Should Do This Instead
Saying something like this can come across as tactless and rude. It’s like saying that the person with chronic disease isn’t doing the right things to find a cure. You can also boil it down to assuming that the person isn’t doing everything they can to improve their health.
Let’s say doing yoga, exercising, or following a diet worked for you. That’s good, but it doesn’t mean it will also work for people who have a chronic illness. Remember that everyone is different and has different bodies, interests, and lifestyles.
5. It’s Only Stress
This type of statement blames the person with a chronic disease rather than help them. You’re saying they made life decisions that are stressing them out and causing their health problems.
Instead, say “I hope you find out what’s wrong,” or “how can I help you?”
For example, you know that your co-worker finds it hard to sleep at night. Don’t comment on their stress levels. Instead, offer solutions to help them sleep.
6. Are You Sure You Can’t Eat That?
Asking this question is like saying that you can’t trust the person. If someone with chronic disease tells you they can’t eat cheese, don’t ask if they’re sure. They are, and they won’t appreciate the unnecessary question.
If you want to invite anybody to your home for dinner or lunch, ask about any foods they’re avoiding. It’ll keep you from preparing unnecessary food items. It’ll also save them from trying to explain on-the-spot why they can’t eat your food.
7. Mind Over Matter
It’s ignorant to tell a person that it’s as easy as thinking away chronic pain. It’s also very insensitive to the patient’s pain or condition. Even if you’ve had the exact experience the patient going through, you can’t expect them to handle it the same way.
Instead, ask if you can do anything practical to help. Better yet, read up on the science behind pain so you’re familiar with the person’s experience with it. As a note, professional therapists can help a person overcome pain, but it will take years of practice.
8. At Least You Don’t Have to Go to Work or Find Work
People who find out they have a chronic illness still have the skills they had before the revelation. Even those who’ve had chronic disease their whole lives tend to develop skills they can use for work. Most of them want to earn money like the average person.
Getting access to remote work can be life-changing for people with a chronic illness. If you want a patient with chronic disease to understand your sympathy, don’t say that. Instead, say, “It must be hard to be out of work, so how can I help you?”
9. Is Your Weight the Cause of Your Chronic Illness?
Never assume anything about people, especially for those with chronic conditions. It can be hurtful and insensible. Assuming that a person has a chronic disease because of their weight, lack of exercise or other reasons can hurt more than help.
Remember, you don’t need to understand the cause of a chronic illness to respect a patient.
10. We All Have Bad Days
The last item on our list of what not to say to people with chronic illnesses is this. Indeed, everyone has their struggles and unique life experiences. However, you can’t tell a person suffering from a chronic illness that “everyone has bad days.”
It’s like telling someone to stop complaining. It invalidates their pain or illness. Instead, let them know they’re not alone and that you’re there for them.
Find the Right Words to Say
People with chronic illness are already dealing with a lot because of their condition. You need not add to the things that they need to deal with on a day-to-day basis. Learn what not to say to people with chronic illnesses with our guide today!
Now that you know more about chronic illnesses, you may want to learn what else you can do to help them. Contact us here and we’ll get in touch with you as soon as we can!