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Chronic Illness - Chronic Pain Articles Available to Read and Reprint

8 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Mom

By Lisa Copen

Mommy moments come in all forms of days at the beach, backyard BBQs, or kids reading groups at the library. These are all wonderful times to get to know other mothers and share in wearing out your kids, as well as gaining some understanding from other parents. But the number of women who live with chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia and diabetes continues to grow, the spontaneity of these fun activities is easily disrupted.

According to the National Fibromyalgia Association, fibromyalgia (FM) experts estimate that about 10 million Americans and approximately 5 percent of the population worldwide live with this disabling condition of FM, one of the fastest growing auto-immune diseases in the USA. When I recently went to my adoptive moms play date group, even within this niche group, three out of the six of us had chronic illnesses. Being aware of they illness symptoms a friend may cope with, and the daily changes in their limitations and abilities, can make a big difference in how much they are willing to be a part of a mom's group and feel comfortable around other moms who all seem to jump hurdles at the speed of light.

[1]. Find out the best times of day for play-dates or activities. This will vary from season to season (weather and heat can affect it a great deal); and it also is different from one illness to another. For example, for some moms, mornings are good and afternoons are exhausting; for others they aren't moving or out of PJs before the clock strikes noon.

[2] Be adaptable and don't make her feel guilty if she must cancel your plans. When one lives with a chronic illness, one never knows what may change moment to moment. For example, last week I just took a normal step, but it resulted in my knee being locked up for four days. Despite all the medications and therapies, all my plans had to be cancelled and my husband tried to pick up the pieces of my son's schedule while he also worked from home.

[3] Communicate with her that you understand she has some limitations. So ask "How far are you comfortable walking today?" and try to accommodate. A two-block walk to the park may seem like miles for her and the few stairs may be impossible. I won't even take escalators any more with my poor knees, so take the elevator with her. Don't run ahead of her, unless you are chasing your kids (or hers!) and understand she may need to sit down on a bench for a few minutes to rest, even after walking just one-hundred feet. Standing can also be hard, so even if the carousel line looks like a ten minute weight, she may need for you to stand in line and then let her jump in at the last minute.

[4] Ask polite questions about her illness, such as "what is your greatest challenge?" Avoid telling her about the cures you've heard for her illness; the products you may sell that could help her; or about your mother's cousin's sister who has the same illness but still manages to raise five children and work full-time.

[5] Simple things that may be difficult for her. For example, if you go to the beach, ask her if she'd like to be dropped off with some stuff and save you a spot. She may not be able to plop down on the hard sand so remember to bring a few lawn chairs so she isn't the only one two feet above the others. Most people on medication need shade and limited sun exposure. And don't expect her to carry the cooler, the poodle, the beach toys and watch the twin 2-year-olds while you park the car. While you don't want to make her feel helpless, and she doesn't want the attention, be aware that she may need some extra considerations.

[6] Don't assume that she can take care of your children, even for five minutes, unless she volunteers. Child-caring is exhausting and caring for her own may be zapping her of the little strength she already has. Plus, if your kids are prone to run out into the street, realize that she may not physically be able to chase them.

[7] Plan things that she can participate in. Even though you may think nothing of inviting her to your stroller exercise group, and mommy and me aerobics classes, these are not likely options for her. Discover what kinds of things she likes to do and then see if you can join her. And don't try to set a record for the longest outing. Keep the activities under three hours or at least let her know that she's welcome to go whenever she wants. You may like six hours watching the elephants, but she's going to need to get home and recover from the outing. Don't try to encourage her to stay longer by saying "A little more exercise might really help you feel better!"

[8] Lastly, say the words to her that every mom wants to hear: "You are an amazing mom and I don't know how you do it all. I truly admire your perseverance and strength."

Get a free download of 200 ways to reach out to someone who is hurting from Beyond Caseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend when you sign up for hopenotes, a monthly ezine. Author of this article, Lisa Copen is also the founder of Rest Ministries and National Invisible Illness Awareness Week.






Don't forget! This article can be reprinted for free or syndicate Lisa's new articles.