Do’s and Don’ts for family and friends of Graves’ disease patients.
author: Svetla Bankova
- First: Don’t run away from a person who has Graves’ disease/hyperthyroidism. When it comes to Graves’ disease, or any thyroid disease for that matter, it would separate the weak from the strong. Don’t be that friend or spouse that leaves. Help as much as you can, write, email, text, visit, stay there for the long haul. The longer thyroid disease stays, the lonelier it gets.
- Don’t say things like “Oh, you are just having a bad day, tomorrow will be different”, ” You can’t do the things you use to do 20 years ago” or “If you just get up and move, get outside and do things, you’ll feel better.” That’s not helping folks!
- Don’t’ share horror stories about people who became worse because they had their thyroid removed, got RAI, or pursued natural treatment. It’s not considered a happy ending, if the character of your story got worse, one or another way.
- When it comes to a serious disease like Graves’ disease or Hashimoto’s, there are no right words. Keep it simple: “I’m here for you!”. And mean it. Sometimes you don’t have to speak even, your presence is enough and matters more than any words. Keep in touch, even your friend/spouse with Graves’ disease is too tired to talk, or to spend time with you. Continue to be there for them.
- Don’t offer medical advice or discourage the person from pursuing the course of treatment he or she was chosen. (Unless you are a medical professional and you’ve been asked for an advice). Whether you agree with their decisions or not, respect the choices they have made. It’s about their health, not yours.
- Don’t blame the person for being sick with thyroid disease. It’s not their conscious choice. Don’t point that he/she is being sick because of smoking, not eating healthy, lack of exercise, eating too much red meat, stress or negative thinking. Seriously, don’t do that!
- Don’t point out anything that isn’t flattering- like their bulging or protruded eyes (that hurts!), brittle nails, skinny bodies, overweight bodies or fine hair. Make sure that your words are necessary, helpful and kind. That matters!
- Don’t be afraid of the person being sick: Graves’ disease or any thyroid disease is not contagious. Get in there and hug, hugs mean more than words!
- Don’t say you know how the person feels. You really don’t know! You can only guess, but that’s not enough.
- Don’t ask personal questions; allow the person with thyroid disease some privacy. They don’t have to share everything with you no matter how close friend/relative/family you are to them. If they volunteer information, that’s fine. Some people prefer to keep their medical information private, other may go public. That’s their choice.
- Don’t promise to do something that you can’t and won’t do for them. People with thyroid disorders may go through worst times of their lives, so don’t offer empty promises. The last thing for them is to be disappointed or heartbroken. Offer only what you are willing to follow through on.
- Don’t take anything personally. Graves’ disease brings up all kinds of emotions, often negative. It can make the person irritated, angry, sad, depressed, anxious, nervous, tensed or all of the above. This has nothing to do with you, it is caused by their thyroid disease. It also makes the person awfully tired and exhausted so it is better to offer your help!
- Instead of asking “What can I do to help?”, offer specific things: to babysit the kids for a few hours, to cook a meal, to run errands, to help with laundry, to drive somebody somewhere, to help with cleaning, to pick up kids from school, to help the children with homework, to fill the fridge, to go grocery shopping. Options are limitless, and you know best your friend/spouse/relative. If you can’t do something, you’ve been asked to, be honest. Don’t forget that it’s very hard for people with Graves’ disease to ask for help. That’s one of the reasons on a first place why they got sick!
- Offer sweet little things that may help the person with thyroid disease feel better: buy movie tickets, invite over for dinner or lunch, buy flowers, write a card, send a nice text message, get them a good book/movie/CD, whatever you can afford or you can share. Trust me, your friend/spouse/loved one will never forget what you did for them.
- Help the person with Graves’ disease to delegate duties. Make a list of what they need or want, then make a list of family, friends, co-workers, neighbors who might be the best matches to meet those needs and wants. Remember, this is temporary, but means a lot!
Sometimes a hug is all the person needs: it alleviates stress, depression and fatigue as well as lowers the risk of heart disease and strengthens immunity! A mere 10-second hug per day can reduce blood pressure and raise the levels of feel-good chemicals like oxytocin. So, go and hug your friend/loved one, it costs nothing! Don’t forget the 10 seconds rule!