26 ways to help a friend with a chronic illness

September 28, 2023

Each week I receive hundreds of emails from compassionate and kind people asking how they can be a good friend to someone with a chronic illness. These people are true treasures as they want to practically help a friend who is walking the difficult road of chronic illness. I am definitely not an expert at all, but the things that I have listed below are things that friends have mentioned to me that have been wonderful or I have personally experienced that have truly touched my heart and my life in my journey with health issues.

1. Listen without judgment
The journey of chronic illness has ins and outs that unless you are living and walking that road is impossible to understand. I once shared about the long and winding road to healing with Lyme disease (click HERE to read) but that post is true for anyone walking through a chronic illness. Your listening ear is the most important gift that you could offer in the journey.

2. Understand that Chronic Illness is a long-term issue. 
Walk in with your eyes wide open. The hardest thing in this journey can be friends who leave so truly understand that it is a long term thing.

3. Listen without offering advice (unless asked). 
When you offer unsolicited advice, it can come across as a lecture- even if that is not your intent. Someone once said: "Assume that we have heard all of the tips on living healthier and leave it at that." I couldn't have said it any better.

4. Offer monetary help if possible
Even with insurance patients with chronic diseases spend thousands and thousands of dollars trying to get healthy. Many people with Chronic Illness, like myself, have already gone through all available resources. These types of gifts do not have to be large either. Someone gave me a five dollar gift card to Target in the middle of my journey that helped purchase necessities. Such a blessing! Truly gift cards are wonderful if that is an option for you to give!

5. Understand that Chronic Illness' are complex.

6. Send an email or a text just to say "hello".
It doesn't have to be long or take a lot of time but sending a quick "thank you" is truly a blessing.

7. Help with housework or yard work
One friend of mine has a friend who comes over weekly to mow her lawn since her husband fell ill. This gift has been a priceless help during an incredibly difficult time. If you don't have the time for housework or yard work consider spending the money on purchasing these services as a gift.

8. Leave a phone message. 
One of my dear friends always leaves her message with adding in precious words of "you don't have to call back...". Such a precious gift filled with understanding.

9. Pick up (and purchase if possible) prescriptions.

10. Pick up children from school or to create a carpool.

11. Offer your gifts that you have
A friend of mine has a friend who is a masseuse and offers a massage free of charge to her friend once a month. Another friend runs a house-cleaning business and offers her services free of charge once a month.

12. Take children to church or other events. 
Many times those with chronic conditions are forced to miss out on everyday and important events. An offer to take their children would give them a piece of mind.

13. Send cards but not "get well" cards.

14. Send care packages.

15. Buy nice pajamas
Those with chronic illnesses spend a lot of time in bed or in the hospital and nice pajamas are always a lovely gift.

16. Magazines are a lovely gift.

17. Be very careful about your timing. 
One day when I ended up in the emergency room and I texted a few friends asking for prayer. One friend responded back asking me if I truly had faith that I would be healed because then I wouldn't need prayer. I am sure it was not meant to be hurtful but the timing could not have been any worse. It came as the nurse attempted her sixth stick for an IV and I couldn't stop throwing up. I expected some encouraging words only to read those words which were incredibly hurtful. Timing, as the old adage says truly is everything.

18. Pick up groceries.

19. Come and just sit or watch TV or a movie with your friend.

20. Flowers. 
Is there ever a wrong time for flowers? *smiles*

21. Don't say: "But you don't look sick" or... "But you don't act sick".
One of the most read posts on my blog is my post entitled, "But You Don't Act Sick" (click HERE to read). I am not sure what a sick person is supposed to act or look like but the reality is that there is a reason many illnesses are called "invisible illnesses". 

22. Treat your friend as a whole person. 
The best gifts I am offered are by my closest friends and family who treat me as a whole person. I am more than my illness. I have a lot of other things going on in life and while my illness may be central to a lot of the issues, I still like to talk about normal everyday things.

23. Offer a gift card to buy movies or TV seasons or purchase a Netflix, Pureflix, or Hulu subscription. 
This definitely can help pass the time.

24. Respect the limitations and boundaries of your friend.

25. Food and meals are always appreciated. 
One of the hardest parts of  dealing with a chronic illness is not having the energy to cook. Meals are a gift. One idea is to offer a meal once a month which would be a complete blessing for someone.

26. Before you deliver food check with your friend about allergies (and timing). Lots of people with chronic illnesses have food allergies. Make sure to check with them before you purchase or deliver food.

Interested in more suggestions? Check out my 2 E-Books for those who are walking the path of Chronic Illness or Who Have a Loved One Who Is: 

12 Things to Pray
12 Things to Do

Happy Thursday friends! I hope that you have a wonderful day!


  1. What a great post! It's so nice to know there are ways you can really bless someone, even by doing something simple!

  2. I read your interview over at another blog and now I just read this post. What an awesome friend you are. My best friend is only 24 and she has had two hip replacements and really bad R/A, I needed this. Thank you!


  3. Thanks for this post! My father in law had cancer... I didn't know what to do to ease my boyfriend or his family pain. I did what my mom showed me, just be there, help any way you can... I cooked, cleaned, and did whatever they asked me... After my mother in law told me that is the Little things that showed her that I was there and loved them.

  4. Wonderful list! :-) I've read several of these posts recently (because this new friend of mine was coming up on a long trip to a wellness center far from home)... and this is absolutely the best of these I've read. :-) I love how graceful and understanding YOU are in asking for grace and understanding... I think a lot of us (myself included in a big way sometimes) struggle with being offended by and a bit angry with our healthy friends. But the truth is that - especially for chronicittles - we may be the first real experience they have with chronic illness, and there's a learning curve :-) And you know #2 is close to my heart... [[hugs]]

  5. Wow, this is a great list! This is exactly the kind of point-blank and practical list that I can use and I plan on referring back to it again. Thanks, Rebecca, for sharing!

    1. Thanks so much Kellie! I wasn't able to email you back because you are listed as a "no reply blogger" but I wanted to say thank you for your sweet comment and for stopping by!
      :) Have a wonderful day!
      :) Rebecca

  6. I love this post!! There should def be more people like you out there, I couldn't agree with you more about the "never say, you don't look sick"...I get that at work constantly. Some people say it as a way of meaning "you hide it well, you're strong" but it really has nothing to do with looking sick. My mom gets frustrated with a few of my previous doctors bc they don't take me seriously if I have on makeup and I look put together. I've always said that there needs to be a man like the one in the green mile who can touch the affected area and feel what you are going through then take it away! Thanks so much for your kind words! They mean everything! Hope you have a wonderful weekend.

  7. It's a good thing post The particular facts I stubled onto helpful. I've made note of it and will eventually check-out again down the track. Thank you.
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  8. Wow, thank you for this! I had missed this post. Very insightful and I love the practical tips you offer, like doing yard work. Of course! And meals. Of course! And pajamas. Brilliant! I spent the whole time reading this post going, "Yeah!" "That's right!" "Of course!" "Why didn't I think of that!"

  9. When my mother-in-law was house-bound, we paid her hair stylist to come and trim her hair. MIL felt so much better with her "mop" (as she called it) trimmed and thinned.

  10. Comment by: Stephen Walker

    Hi Rebecca,

    "But, you don't look sick" must be the words that most with a chronic illness are fed up with hearing. Closely followed by "You're looking well" Aaargh. It drives me to distraction.

    Thank you for your compassionate post.

    1. It is so true Stephen! Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment!
      Rebecca :)