How To Help A Sick Friend: 17 Ways To Comfort and Care

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When we’re ill, it’s a blessing to be surrounded by people who understand how to help a sick friend. The best way to have those people in your life? Be one of them yourself!

Woman sick in bed watches someone squeeze lemon into a cup of tea

Whether you’ve just learned your best friend is under the weather or found out that the woman who sometimes gives your kid a ride home after soccer practice is recovering from surgery, looking for ways you can help is a kindness you do not only for them but also for yourself.

Ways to Help a Sick Friend

One thing I’ve learned during my husband’s battle with cancer is that asking, “Is there anything I can do?” burdens the other person. If they’re not feeling well, they may not have the energy to think up ideas. Plus, who wants to hear “Oh, I’m sorry, I’m busy that day” or that whatever they’d asked for isn’t the kind of help you’d intended?

So, look at this list and pick a few things you have the time and energy to do, then do them. If you think your friend may want to be just left alone or is too sick to be around others, choose things you can do without interaction. But don’t just assume they don’t need or want help.

Feed Your Friend Who’s Not Well

1. Cook for them. We’ve all heard that Chicken Noodle Soup is good for what ails us, so why not whip up a pot and take it over to your friend? Or drop by a homemade casserole, wrapped and ready to stash in the fridge or pop into the oven. You could even set them up with crockpot tea they can sip to stay hydrated.

2. Stop by with grocery staples. Getting to the grocery store is difficult when you don’t feel well. For under $20 and just 30 minutes of your time, you stock your friend’s refrigerator with the staples they need to cook for themselves like bread, milk, eggs, cereal, canned soup or pasta with a jar of sauce.

3. Meals in a Jar. There are all sorts of shelf-stable recipes you can make and keep in Mason jars that only need a bit of water to become a meal. Find them on Pinterest and keep a few on hand for just such occasions.

Help a Sick Friend with Housework

4. Do a load or two of laundry. Nothing is more miserable than sleeping on dirty sheets when you’re sick. Why not offer to change your friend’s bed linens and put the used ones through the wash while you’re there?

5. Clean something. Kids don’t stop making messes when Mom or Dad is sick. Buzzing through your friend’s home with a vacuum and canister of disinfecting wipes can be a big help when they’re not up to cleaning. That goes doubly true when your friend is dealing with a stomach bug — at such times, a freshly cleaned bathroom is always appreciated!

6. Play chauffeur. Step in and get your friend’s kids to and from school, sports practice, and other lessons. Or take your friend to their doctors’ appointments, so they don’t have to struggle with driving.

7. Walk the dog. A good dog can be a great comfort when you’re not feeling well, but after a while, even the best one gets antsy. Your friend will probably appreciate not having to feel guilty for Rover’s restlessness. (If they have cats, change the litter box while you’re there.)

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8. Do yard work. Rake leaves, water plants, pull weeds, or mow the lawn. Such things are almost impossible to do when you’re not feeling well, but they still need doing. (Especially if your friend has a picky Homeowner’s Association!)

Keep Their Kids Busy

9. Take them somewhere. Bless their hearts, kids don’t always know how to keep quiet when Mom or Dad need extra rest to get better. Be a pal by putting the kids in your car and taking them to the park or to a G-rated movie to get them out of the house.

10. Bring them board games. Or video games. Or DVD movies. Anything to give them something to do and a bit of excitement.

11. Help out with homework. Okay, the kids may not be thrilled with this, but your friend will be. Whether it’s a head cold or something more serious keeping you in bed, it’s amazing how challenging third-grade mathematics can be when you don’t feel well.

12. Surprise them with sundaes. Want to be a hero with kids as well as sick parents? Bring over the fixings for ice cream sundaes. The kids will appreciate the sweet treat, and so will someone with a sore throat.

Ways to Pamper Your Friend

13. Books for the bedridden. Sometimes having to stay in bed isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. After a while, you get tired of sleeping and watching daytime TV. If your schedule doesn’t permit other favors, dropping off a stack of the latest best-selling novels or a pile of glossy magazines will still be appreciated.

14. Something to soak in. There’s nothing like a hot bath to soothe stuffy sinuses, sore backs, or weary hearts. Fill up a basket with scented bath products and lotions so your friend can bathe in bliss.

15. Wrap them in comfort. Sick people tend to stay in their pajamas. A new pair of cozy, cute ones is always appreciated. Not sure of their size? Give them a robe or a super-plush throw blanket, instead.

16. Let them eat cake. Popping in with a sweet, decadent, single-serving treat that’s just for them is a wonderful way to pamper your friend. Grab a cupcake from their favorite bakery, a small box of excellent chocolates, or an extra-large (decaf) latte for your friend who usually never goes a day without one.

17. Just being you. Social isolation is a real risk for people facing long-term illnesses or injuries. While your friend might not be able to get out of the house, they still need interaction with other adults. Hanging out together, whether you’re watching movies or just talking, can keep your friend’s spirits up through whatever they’re facing.

When Should You Help?

Remember, sometimes people are afraid to ask because they don’t want to seem like a burden. Other times, they don’t feel well enough to think of the ways they need help. With this list, you’ve got some ideas to choose from — find a few that fit your schedule and finances and be proactive about doing them. Feeling cared for by the people we care about is a great medicine all its own.

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  1. This is such a super list. I can tell you put a lot of thought into it and I will pin and bookmark it just in case. Thank you!

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