What to Avoid Saying to Someone with a Chronic Health Condition

caregiver hugging senior woman

Learn communication tips regarding a chronic health condition.

Has anyone ever said to you, “Wow, you look really tired! Are you having trouble sleeping?” While you may have been feeling pretty lively up until then, suddenly you actually DO feel a bit worn out. What we say when we speak to other people and the way it’s interpreted can be powerful. This is good to keep in mind if you’re caring for a senior loved one, or talking with those who have a chronic health condition. It’s important to think through carefully what we’re going to say, and perhaps even more importantly, what NOT to say.

Though we are, of course, well-meaning, there are some comments that are better left unsaid. The reason people may make insensitive-sounding comments, according to Mindy Beth Lipson, a Phoenix psychologist: “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.”

Take a moment to review the comments below that we all need to ensure we’re not including in our conversations with those experiencing a medical crisis:

  1. “If only you would have quit smoking (or exercised more; or ate healthier; etc.) this could have been avoided.” No one can know what the outcome may have been if different choices had been made, and playing the “what if” game doesn’t help the situation. Focus instead on offering the compassionate support needed, and leave any feelings of judgment you may have at the door.
  2. “My cousin was given that diagnosis as well and felt sick for a really long time.” Sharing negative stories about someone else’s experience with the same diagnosis is a guaranteed way to bring someone down. Instead, remind yourself that each person responds to health issues in different ways, and place your focus on the positives the person you’re talking with has achieved.
  3. “Can you remember when…?” Memory prompts like these can add to the frustration and agitation for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or a similar type of cognitive impairment. Talk instead about news from times gone by as if it’s just happened, to more positively engage the person.

Giving the person you’re caring for the chance to talk with you (or not talk with you) about his or her experiences and feelings, holding the individual’s hand if welcome, providing a beautiful bunch of flowers or a homemade treat, and simply offering your presence can build the person up and offer the encouragement needed.

For more care tips, or for help with a loved one you’ve been caring for, call on Advanced Home Health Care, the leading provider of Burlington home care services for the surrounding areas. We offer high quality, skilled assistance for seniors undergoing a health concern or simply the effects of aging that provides comfort and peace, through a wide variety of personalized services. Contact us online or at 800.791.7785 for more information about our services or to schedule a free in-home consultation.

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