Questions to Ask a Friend with a Chronic Illness

what to say to someone with a chronic illnessThis post is for friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, family, and anyone close to those with a chronic illness.

Lately I’ve been discovering articles on things not to say to someone with Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, and other chronic illness. They are fantastic! Some made me frustrated and others made me laugh. It’s pretty accurate. But these articles prompt us to beg the question, “what do you say to someone with a chronic illness?”.

Below are some questions rather than statements. An inquisitive friend is a great friend to have. If you ask the right questions we will give you information we want you to have.

What are your limitations?

The answer to this question will help you decide how to better treat your friend. When you make plans with a friend who has a chronic illness they may have some things to work around. Limitations can involve food choices, being away from a bathroom, a long day with no rest, or more.

You can rephrase this to, “what are your limitations today?”. The word “today” is important. Our health can change at the drop of a hat.

Would you rather me to come over instead of us going out?

Most of the time we feel guilty cancelling plans. Those with a chronic illness force themselves to go to scheduled events after work or on weekends because saying ‘no’ all the time means we miss out on a lot. Being given the option to stay in can be comfortable though. The question “would you rather” is helpful for us because it means we have more than one option.

What can I cook that will agree with you?

One of the best ways to express your love for someone is through food, says the Italian lady. 😉 Similarly, if you’re going out to eat instead try asking, “is this restaurant a good choice?”. It doesn’t put the pressure on us to choose the place or food, but gives us the opportunity to let you know if it’ll work out.

Did you hear about… ‘insert-current-event-or-juicy-gossip here’?

You’re our friend. We know you care about our illness but it’s also nice to not talk about it. Our chronic illness does not define us. It’s simply an aspect of our lives. We like that you see us that way too.

Are there any websites I can check out to learn about your illness?

Yes, yes there are. And we will give you the ones we think you could benefit from. As a friend you might not be our direct caregiver but your understanding goes a long way. To the IBDers, please direct them to trustworthy places with accurate information. Avoid WebMD and Yahoo Answers… ya know what I mean? haha.

There’s an event for Inflammatory Bowel Disease next weekend, will you go with me?

You want to get involved in the bigger picture of our disease. We love you for that! Connecting with other people who have the same disease as us is a great way to help us grow our community.

How are you feeling?

This might seem a bit obvious, but it’s actually not. Knowing someone cares about how we are feeling, both emotionally and physically, is really important to us. Having a chronic illness is a long and quiet road. So knowing that someone is checking in on our well-being keeps us moving. This is my favorite question because it’s a completely open ended question. We can answer it however we’d like. You aren’t necessarily asking how we are feeling in relation to our disease. It could mean many things. How are you feeling emotionally? How are you feeling physically? How are you feeling about work? How are you feeling about that guy that never called you back? oh, sorry, off track a little there. 😉 Asking this is actually similar to saying, “tell me what’s on your mind”.


Any more to add? Comment below or join the discussion on Facebook.


5 thoughts on “Questions to Ask a Friend with a Chronic Illness

  1. Emma Guy

    Hi, Great article and right on point! I have just shared this on my personal Facebook to raise awareness. I have been in remission for nearly 3 years now thanks to acupuncture. Thank you.

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