East Bay CNA from Hillendale Home Care is licensed by the State of California to provide Certified Nursing training courses for Contra Costa and Alameda Counties.

Caregiver Tip: How To Talk To Someone With A Chronic Illness

The Hillendale CNA School provides tips regarding how to talk to someone with a chronic illness.

Have you ever walked into the office or a get-together with friends or family and had an individual say to you with great concern, “You really look tired today!” Even though you may have been feeling pretty perky before that moment, unexpectedly you really DO feel exhausted and rundown. The words we use with each other together with the ways in which we interpret them are very meaningful. When it comes to how to talk to someone with a chronic illness, it is vital that you thoughtfully think about what to express, and perhaps most importantly, what NOT to say, that can help the person feel his or her best.

While we are most certainly well meaning, a number of comments are better left unsaid. Making a less-than-sensitive comment, according to Mindy Beth Lipson, a Phoenix psychologist, happens because, “I think people are just scared and nervous and don’t know how to respond. There might be several reasons, the first being it brings up their own mortality. Some people also just lack empathy.”

If you’re wondering how to talk to someone with a chronic illness, it’s sometimes most helpful to focus on what not to do. To follow are several comments to eliminate from your vernacular when communicating with those faced with a medical crisis:

1. “My friend had the same prognosis and was ill for several months.” Sharing unfavorable accounts about a person with a similar diagnosis is a guaranteed way to bring the person’s spirits down. As an alternative, remember that each individual experiences health issues differently, and focus on the positives the person you’re talking with has achieved.

2. “If you’d only stopped smoking (or exercised; or followed a healthy eating plan; etc.) this wouldn’t have happened.” It is impossible to know whether the outcome could have been different if healthier options happen to be made, and there is no benefit to saying “what if.” Focus instead on giving the support and compassion the individual needs right now, and leave any feelings of judgment at the door.

3. “Do you remember…?” Particular to those with dementia or other cognitive impairment, memory prompts similar to this can also add towards the frustration and agitation already experienced. Sharing news from days gone by as if they’re brand-new is an effective strategy to engage the individual instead.

Your absolute best bet is to let the individual have the chance to talk about (or not to share) his or her experiences and emotions, hold the person’s hand if it is welcome, give a pretty bouquet of flowers or any other small present or treat, and extend your affectionate, loving presence and support. 

To get more detailed care tips, or for hands-on caregiver training, reach out to the Hillendale CNA school. We provide quality training to those interested in enriching the lives of the elderly by becoming CNAs or HHAs. Contact us online or give us a call at (925)297-2676 to learn more about becoming a trained CNA in Walnut Creek and the nearby areas.