Receiving Care
August 2, 2023
3 Minutes

Keeping Loved Ones in the Loop: How to Communicate Health Updates with Friends & Family

Maya Devincenzi Dil

Since your diagnosis, everyone wants to know how you’re doing. While it can make you feel loved, responding to sympathetic texts, concerned emails and round-the-clock phone calls is a tiring thought – at best. So you’re in a conundrum. You want to keep your nearest and dearest up to date… while protecting yourself from unwanted advice or toxic positivity. You’ve got to communicate, but the prospect of so many different conversations doesn’t appeal.

We’ve brainstormed how to make communicating easier- from who to update and how to share feelings and set boundaries. So without further ado…

Who do I tell what?

For starters, you’ll probably want to share different information with different people.

There’s your inner circle, the ones closest to your heart and home, and most involved in your care. They might get a full day-to-day rundown of your well-being, scheduled appointments, and a list of practical stuff that you need a hand with.

Then there’s more distant family and friends, like the relatives you only see at a family gathering or the friend who checks in once a while. You might only want to update them on your diagnosis, outlook or on a need-to-know basis. Now, that doesn’t mean that you can’t rely on them for help. If they reach out asking what they can do, be ready to whip out a list of options. They could do research, help organise practical, or even just send a care package.

Of course, what you’re comfortable sharing is up to you. But bear in mind that the more information you share with your inner circle, the more they can help. Think priorities, your feelings, or personal needs – from finding you a support group or joining you at an appointment.

Keeping them updated

Let’s give a round of applause for technology! These days there are easier ways to keep everyone in the loop than individual phone calls. We’ve got Facebook pages, Whatsapp group chats, caregiver support tools like Pal, personal health websites like Caringbridge, or even productivity tools like Notion. Ask your family and friends what they’d prefer to use, and find what works for everyone.

Or alternatively, maybe you have a super organised friend or family member who can take on messenger duties. You know the type – the one who knows the plan, handles reservations and is always on time? Let them run your updates page and share important news for you. That way, your catch-ups with your friends and family won’t be hijacked by repetitive questions about your health status and latest appointments.

Let’s talk feelings

In my humble opinion, there’s never a bad time to talk about your feelings. When it comes to family, sharing emotions, giving advice, and generally being there for each other can be a real comfort. Especially when you’re going through something big, like living with a serious illness. Acting cheerful and resilient when you feel anything but can be exhausting, so be honest about your off days. Whether you need a heart to heart with your sibling or a light-hearted chat with a close friend to take your mind off things, you can always reach out. You probably already have an idea of the people you’d feel comfortable chatting openly with, and the ones you might hide some details from to protect them – like children. Trust your intuition on this.

Keep discussions focused

In the minefield of family discussions, there’ll be times when you’ll have to take the reins a bit. You know what I mean. Constantly being asked about your treatment plan, given advice on your diet, well-meaning family members suggesting alternative therapies… Nip that in the bud with a simple “thank you, but this isn’t what I need to hear at the moment.”

You are in control of the conversations you have, so don’t feel the need to entertain input or unsolicited advice that you’re not in the mood for.

Remember, communicating right isn’t only your responsibility. Try giving your friends a nudge in the right direction when it comes to communicating with you.