You probably know someone who is battling a chronic illness. There are so many recognized diseases today that you probably know someone with Lyme disease, advanced diabetes or cancer.

When a friend or loved one is struggling with a chronic illness, sometimes we don’t know what to do to help them. Unless you’re the spouse or immediate caretaker, you might wonder how to help your friend or loved one.

Here are a few suggestions that will give you a place to start. You can find a longer list in my book, “Always Hope,” if you’re looking for more ideas!

If you know someone who struggles with a serious and/or chronic illness and you’re wondering what to do, there are significant and real ways you can help.

Most important: Ask the ill person what you can do to help, and then make suggestions of things you would like to do.

If you simply ask, “Can I do anything to help?” you’ll probably never get a response.

But if you ask, “Hey, what can I do to help? Would you like me to visit, or bring by a movie or a book? Do you just need a visit or a phone call?”

Making suggestions shows that you’re sincere in your offer and encourages the person who is ill to feel comfortable accepting help outside his or her immediate family and/or caretakers.

Ways you can help:

1) Listen. Often the person struggling with illness needs someone to talk to about the difficulties they face. Be there for them, close your mouth and let them talk.

2) Bring flowers or a small potted plant. Connecting with nature can be important when the ill person is unable to get outside and watch the changing seasons.

3)  Pray for the person who struggles with illness and tell her you’re praying for her.

4)  Call on the phone just to say “hi.” If she doesn’t answer, leave a message to let her know you’re thinking of her.

5)  Send an email or an e-card to say “hi” or with encouragement.

6)  Talk about the qualities you admire in the ill person to that person. Illness often removes opportunities for schooling, career, and/or outward achievements. Verbally affirming that she’s still admirable in her reduced state can give great encouragement.

7)  Stop by for a short visit. If she’s too tired then for a visitor, don’t be offended. Stop by at other times to let her know you care.

8)  Offer to do yard work.

9)  Offer to bring over a meal. Be certain to ask about food allergies or sensitivities.

10)  Offer to watch a movie, or do another quiet, low energy activity with the ill person. Often, he would love to be involved with friends, but lacks the energy to do suggested activities that require leaving the house.

Be patient. Give without expecting any kind of response. The ill person does appreciate your efforts but often is just too tired or ill to tell you. You do make a difference in her life!

If you’ve never had a chronic illness, you might not realize the impact you can make in someone’s life by small and simple actions. The suggestions above don’t take that much time to do, but seriously, they make a world of difference for someone who’s sick.

Use the list above as a springboard to help you get started. Your friends and loved ones really do need your encouragement and support. It doesn’t have to be awkward or uncomfortable to reach out – just do something to show you care and go from there!