Chronic pain can be one of the most isolating conditions a person can have. From the outside, people suffering from chronic pain may appear healthy. They may function normally: going shopping, picking the kids up from school, going to work. They may even laugh and smile and seem to have their lives all together.
Privately, though, the story may be different.
Chronic pain sufferers may be working very hard to not show their struggle in public, holding on until they get home to let their guard down. This is a tough situation for the person in pain, and it can also be tough for their families. Here are a few ways that the families of chronic pain sufferers can help support their loved one, and some ideas for sufferers to get the support that they need.
Know that pain is not “all in their head”
Chronic pain sufferers aren’t faking it, and they need to be surrounded by people who believe them when they say they are hurting.
Understand that there is no miracle cure
Although there are ways to help with chronic pain, from diet to medications to exercise, they don’t always work at the same level each day. There is no one answer for all conditions, and chances are the person suffering has tried many different things to help.
Realize that chronic pain is an invisible illness
Sometimes a person suffering may not appear to be in pain, and they may have to deal with comments from strangers on how slowly they move or how creaky they seem. On these days, ask if there is anything you can help with, and move at their pace.
Understand that some days are better than others
What was possible yesterday may not be possible today. Levels of pain will rise and fall. Allow the chronic pain sufferer to set the pace and duration of activities, and listen to them when they say they have had enough.
For the chronic pain sufferer consider this advice.
Ask for help
You don’t have to do it all, and there are people who are willing and able to help. Kids can have chores, and your spouse can take over some activities on the days that the pain is intense.
Plan activities at your best times of day
If there is a period of time when the pain seems to be less, ask family and friends to accommodate that schedule when possible. If they cannot change plans or accommodate you, then be honest about your own availability and re-schedule if necessary.
Be open with your family and friends
They may not understand what you are going through. If they are curious, give them information to better explain chronic pain and answer their questions. You don’t have to give more information than you are comfortable sharing, but know that people who know what you are going through are more likely to be understanding.
The most important thing for chronic pain sufferers and their support systems is communication. Keeping those communication lines open is the best way to work together. Chronic pain can be a very difficult condition to live with, for the sufferer and their loved ones, but understanding when things get tough and asking for help can make a big difference.
What suggestions would you add for supporting a loved one with chronic pain?
Image by Waheed Akhtar via Flickr