23 Inexpensive Ways To Help A Sick Friend

Recently I went through an extended period of illness. During this time many people asked how I was or if I needed anything. My answers were always the same. ‘I’m fine.’ ‘No I don’t need anything.’ My automatic responses were always met with statements like ‘I wish I knew how I could help you’ or ‘Let me know if you do need anything.’

Sometimes the truth was I did need things, but I was either too tired to know what I needed or too shy to ask. Honestly, there were days when I wished that there was someone who just knew what I needed and did it without asking. It occurred to me that there are a couple of reasons that people do not help a sick friend in this way.

One is the fear of invading someone’s space or privacy, which is a legitimate concern. However, illness wore me down and the multitude of doctor visits lifted my vail in terms privacy. I reached a point where a friend helping me to bathe after days of lying in bed was much less embarrassing than having an audience of doctors as new tests or treatments were performed.

Looking back I realize that perhaps the biggest obstacle is simply people do not know what to do. For this reason, I made a list of  23 inexpensive ways to help a sick friend. These were either done for me or things I wished someone had done.

  1. Bring beverages – Sick friends always need fluids and lots of them, especially if they are not tolerating food well. They can always use juice, Gatorade, Chamomile or Green Tea.
  1. Pick up groceries – This does not mean that you have to pay for them. There is nothing wrong with saying, “If you give me your grocery list and the money, I will be glad to pick up your groceries for you.”
  1. Care for pets – Pets can be pivotal to a sick friend’s recovery, but illness often means that they are unable to care for them. Having someone to walk the dog, clean the litter box, or bathe pets can be the difference between being able to keep their pets or having to give them up.
  1. Do household chores – The peace of mind of a clean bathroom, kitchen or even a fresh set of clothes to put on is unspeakable when you are bedridden for an extended period of time.
  1. Bring Epsom salt and smelly good soap – If you have never experienced a long illness that leaves you too tired to even think about showering, it is difficult to understand how much this can mean. Even I had forgotten how exhilarating a shower was until I looked back at my Facebook page and found this post.

When your body hurts & you have no energy it is easy to forget the wonders of a warm bath. Let me remind you. The warm water caressing over those oh so achy muscles is like a dream. The marvelous smell of soap tickles the nose & enlivens the brain. The silkiness of clean skin is a sign that those nasty dead sick cells are leaving your body & being replenished with healthy, living cells that will renew your energy. The healthy pink glow of your skin in your After a Wondrously Magical Shower selfie will be your reminder that your body wants to live and you can do this.

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  1. Sit in the house while they bathe – A major factor in my getting a bath was having someone in the house while I bathed in case I fell or needed help.
  1. Bring a massage tool and offer to massage shoulders – Lying in bed does a real number on the shoulders and neck.
  1. Prepare healthy meals that can be frozen and heated later – Sometimes when you are sick it is hard to tell when the body is going to be willing to accept food. Having healthy, easy to prepare food is pivotal.
  1. Bring a sweet treat – Who does not love a sweet treat? For whatever reason, sugar calms the tummy and may be an easier way to ease into real food.
  1. Drop their kids off at activities – Single parents really have a hard time with this when they are ill. No one likes running a carpool, so asking someone to help you out with this is difficult.
  1. Bring a soft pair of PJ’s or socks – If you are not up for helping out with a load of laundry, grab a soft gown, PJ’s, or socks for your sick friend. Clean bed clothes are always treasured by the sick.
  1. Change their sheets – After a few days, the pillowcase just is not up to par. It starts to smell a little funky after a while. The smell of fresh sheets is a treasure.
  1. Bring them books – Not everyone likes to read, but if your friend is a reader, you will be providing a slice of heaven. You do not have to buy books. My aunt brought books from the library, and as long as she sprayed them with Lysol, I was glad to read them. If they are the e-reader type, you can get them a gift card for their device.
  1. Pay for a Netflix or Hulu subscription – This does not mean that you have to commit to paying in perpetuity. Most services offer a free trial, and there is nothing wrong with saying, “I thought you may like some entertainment while you recover, so I’m going to pay for a Netflix subscription until you get better.”
  1. Make sure their kids have what they need for school – This was a problem in my house. It is hard enough to get my middle-schooler to tell me anything about her day when I’m at my best. When I was bedridden the last minute “Oh I forgots” really amped up. It would have been nice to have someone to ask her if she had projects or needed supplies.
  1. Set their DVR to record their favorite shows – When you get sick, you miss stuff. It sucks to realize the next morning that you fell asleep before Scandal came on and you did not record it.
  1. Go to doctor appointments with them – THIS IS A HUGE ONE! Doctor appointments are scary and nerve wracking. It is hard to hear what the doctor says when you feel so poorly. Having someone willing to be an advocate for you is the best gift ever.
  1. Pick up their prescriptions – Pharmacies are a mess these days and getting prescriptions can be a real task.
  1. Let their kids talk to you about their concerns, especially about the illness – If your sick friend has kids and there is a serious illness, those kids are most likely going to tell their mom or dad that they are fine, but cry in their sheets at night in fear. It is imperative that kids have someone they can trust whom they can be honest with and know that you will be honest in return.
  1. Take their trash to the curb and bring it back in – Our town has a 12 hour trash ordinance. The trash container must be pulled in off the street within 12 hours after pick up. The fine is $100. With my husband working 2 jobs to cover medical expenses, he often was not home to bring the container back in on time. The fine was a burden on us. If you see someone’s trash can, it is real simple to just pull it off the curb for them, even if they are not sick.
  1. Do yard work – We have an HOA that does this, but if we had not, there would have been no time for getting this done.
  1. Check their mail for them – Bringing the mail in and just saying hello is a simple gesture of good will.
  1. Get them out of the house – On a nice day sit outside with them. On a really good day as they recover, take them to an afternoon movie.


These were some of the things that were helpful for me. Please share your own ideas of ways to help a sick friend.

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Lora Leathco

Blogger at SentientObserver.com; Mad Crocheter for Studio KLS; Nonstop talker about TV, Books, Sports, and Hot Topics

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