mental health
BY: Skye White

5 Ways to Support Those with High Risk Conditions During the Pandemic

How to support loved ones with high-risk conditions who aren’t able to resume normal activities yet

So you’re vaccinated and comfortable resuming a wide range of activities. That’s excellent — it’s been a long time coming! What you might not know is that some folks with chronic illnesses or other high-risk conditions are still reluctant to fully resume activities yet, even if they are fully vaccinated and have recently received their Covid-19 booster shots. You may have friends, family, coworkers, or neighbors who fall into this category. If you feel safe and comfortable resuming normal activities, you may want to support those who are not yet able to, especially as the Delta and Omicron variants spread. Here are a few basic ways you can best support the folks in your life who are unable to resume daily activities due to health issues and Covid-19 concerns:

1. Ask them what they need

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to what folks with high-risk conditions may need. Not only will needs vary based on medical conditions, but they will also vary from person to person. An excellent place to start is to first ask if your friend, family member, coworker, or neighbor needs or wants support. If they need or want help, follow up by asking what support they could use.

2. Hear their needs without judgment

Suspend your judgment when asking what they need. If you’re non-disabled, you may not often have to think about what it is like to have a disability, chronic illness, or other high-risk condition. Come into the conversation with an open mind. Each person is an expert of their own life and experience. Trust them to know what’s best for their health and situation.

3. Listen and don’t invalidate

If a loved one with a chronic illness or high-risk condition is telling you about their experience, needs, or comfort level, listen to what they have to say. Don’t invalidate them by arguing their point or offering platitudes like “you’ll be fine” or “get over it.” Instead, listen to their experience and what support they need. Offer genuine empathy and compassion. Validate their feelings and concerns.

3. Be willing to take extra steps

If you’re entering into a conversation with someone with a chronic illness or high-risk condition about how to support them, make sure you are willing to take steps to support them. For example, you may be asked to quarantine or get a rapid test before seeing them. If this is not possible for you, engage in a conversation about what you are willing to give and about what is realistic and feasible for you to do.

4. Get creative

Be willing to explore creative ways to get together so that you can support your loved one. This will require a conversation between the two of you regarding their needs and your capabilities. It might not always be possible for you to give what is needed, but with collaboration, you can likely find something that will work for the both of you. For example, this could mean spending time outside, masked and socially distanced if you cannot quarantine, or getting tested before spending time together.

5. Take care of yourself, too

Even if you are well-meaning, you can’t effectively take care of others until you first take care of yourself. When determining what you’re able to do in supporting your loved ones, make sure that your needs are being met, too.

Skye White, LICSW, is a mental health therapist at Catalyst Counseling, a group practice in downtown Woodinville, Washington. She loves to read, craft, and draw in her spare time.

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