How to show someone with an autoimmune disease that you truly care

77523419_MHaving an autoimmune disease is hard on a person. They have to navigate a whole new lifestyle, which often includes making several dietary and lifestyle changes. It can be a difficult path to walk, especially if loved ones don’t know how to help or make life more difficult. If you’re someone who loves a person with an autoimmune disease, you’ve come to the right place. This article will help you understand how you can show you care in the best way possible.

Accept that it’s real

This is the first step. Just because an illness may be invisible doesn’t make it any less real. Believe your loved one when they explain how they feel or tell you they aren’t up to something. Stress is one of the things that can cause flares to occur. Your loved one will know how much they can handle and when they need to take a break. Don’t add to the stress by treating the illness like it’s made up or not serious. And, by all means, DON’T ever utter the world “hypochondria.” Autoimmune disease is real. See the best in your loved one, and believe them when they tell you what they’re dealing with.

Respect their limitations with autoimmune disease

When a person is newly diagnosed with autoimmune disease, they’ll have to implement some changes. Be respectful of this. They probably won’t be able to do everything they used to or keep the same pace they once did. People with autoimmune disease often have a list of foods that can trigger or worsen flares as well. Be respectful of what they can’t eat. Get to know what foods they aren’t allowed to consume. If there is a food they really miss, say for example: chocolate, don’t eat it in front them. You don’t want to remind them of what they’re missing or tempt them to go off course.

Never push your loved one to do something they shouldn’t be doing. They may go along with it to please you, but you should try to be mindful of what their needs are, even if they’re not openly expressing them.

Develop an open and honest dialogue

Let your loved one know you are there for them, you believe them, and you love them. Tell them you want to better understand what their needs are and ask them how you can help. This can go a long way. You’re opening up the lines of communication and letting them know you are here for them.

Stay away from these words

Be careful what words you use with people that have autoimmune disease. Stay away from referring to the autoimmune disease as imagined, don’t point out that the person has lost weight (they may not be trying to), and please do NOT try to pinpoint what caused the disease by saying “maybe this happened because you did this…”

While you may want to relate with the person, saying that you know how they feel can also be hurtful because you don’t know exactly what they’re going through. Everyone is different. Also, don’t tell them that things could be worse than they are. Your loved one doesn’t want to hear that right now; they want to work through it and figure out the best way for them to live.

Be there for your loved one

Autoimmune disease doesn’t just affect the person walking through it, it also affects those close to them. You’re not perfect, so you’re bound to make some mistakes, but do your best to be a supportive, loving presence around your friend, partner, or family member. Do things together that you can both enjoy. That may mean taking it easy, like watching movies, eating dinner on the deck together, or finding other relaxing ways to spend time with one another. Don’t remind them of the things you miss doing together. If you’re going to be cooking, ask them what their needs are. If you want to go out to eat, make sure the restaurant can accommodate your loved one’s diet.

If you’re close to someone with an autoimmune disease, you may find it’s a difficult path to navigate at first. But, the more you open up yourself to your loved one and learn, the more you can better support them on the journey. By being supportive and accepting, you can learn how to have a stronger relationship on this new path.