15 Ways to Help Visiting Relatives with Chronic Illnesses

Watching a loved one manage a chronic illness can be difficult. As the holidays approach and family members you seldom see make their annual visit, you can prepare to support them. There are things you can do to help during the time you have together. Here are tips for helping a visiting loved one manage three of the most common chronic illnesses.

Alzheimer’s disease

1. Educate yourself. The Alzheimer’s Association has great resources.

2. Be patient. It can be difficult and stressful to watch your loved one struggle, but offering comfort and reassurance is a good response.

3. Offer caretakers a break. Taking care of an Alzheimer’s patient is not easy. Providing short, periodic breaks can do wonders.

4. Engage your relative in social activities that keep in mind his or her abilities and limitations. It’s important that Alzheimer’s patients stay active, even if it’s just playing a simple board game.

5. Have conversations. Evoke memories by showing your loved one photos. Be patient if he or she struggles to express thoughts.


1. Learn to identify seizure signs. These include temporary confusion, a staring spell, and uncontrollable jerking movements.

2. Prepare a seizure response plan. The Epilepsy Foundation provides helpful resources.

3. Take precautions when a seizure happens. Give the person plenty of room, loosen tight clothing, and time the seizure.

4. Don’t put anything in the person’s mouth during a seizure, they will not swallow their tongue.

5. Stay with your loved one after a seizure to make sure he or she has fully recovered.


1. Learn about diabetes and ask what you can do to help your visitor manage the illness.

2. Learn to recognize problem signs, such as crankiness or bad temper, which can be an indication that sugar levels are too high or too low.

3. Be sympathetic. If your relative was recently diagnosed, he or she might be frustrated about having to make lifestyle changes. Be understanding, but do not allow your loved one to use that as an excuse to not properly manage the illness.

4. Do not buy food that he or she can’t eat. Choose fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and fish rather than the typical holiday food that is high in fat, cholesterol, salt, and sugar.

5. Give him or her time to manage the disease. Your visitor might need time for an insulin shot, and he or she should take three minutes every half hour to perform short periods of movement, according to the American Diabetes Association.