If someone you care about has been diagnosed with hepatitis C, you might not know what to say or how to help them.
Taking time to ask your loved one how they’re feeling is a good place to start. Here are some tips to help you begin a conversation about their diagnosis and support needs.
If you want to talk to your loved one about how they’re doing or ask them how you can help, make sure the timing is right.
For example, if you’re standing together in a room full of people, you might want to wait for a more private moment. Consider asking them to spend some one-on-one time with you so you can talk.
It might help to have the conversation in a relaxing environment. Sit down in a quiet place where you can listen to each other without distractions.
Learning that someone you love has hepatitis C can bring up a lot of emotions. For example, you might feel surprised, saddened, or confused.
Instead of reacting right away, try to give yourself a moment to process the news. Listen closely to what your loved one is telling you. Then take a deep breath and think about how you’re going to respond.
You might start by saying: “I’m glad that you’re telling me about your health concerns, and I’m ready to listen and help.”
Your loved one might be frightened about their diagnosis. They might need someone to reassure them. They may be looking to you for positive emotional support.
Instead of pointing out the downsides or the dangers of hepatitis C, emphasize that the condition is treatable. Assure them that they have what it takes to get through this.
If they say something like “I’m afraid” or “I’m so mad at myself,” acknowledge their feelings. Then try to offer them hope and help.
In the not too distant past, hepatitis C wasn’t curable — but now many treatments are available to help treat and potentially cure it.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), current treatments cure
When your loved one is getting ready to start antiviral treatment for hepatitis C, try to listen with a sympathetic ear to concerns they might have about the treatment process. Then reassure them about their ability to cope with the challenges of treatment, including potential side effects.
For example, consider telling your loved one: “I know you’re strong enough to find solutions — and you’ll get through this.”
Chronic hepatitis C can cause symptoms such as fatigue, body pain, brain fog, and difficulty concentrating. It might affect your loved one’s physical, mental, and social well-being.
Their diagnosis might affect you, too. But when you talk to them about their condition, try to keep the focus on them instead of you.
If you’re struggling to find the words to comfort or reassure them, simple gestures may help convey your sympathy and support.
For example, try smiling, nodding your head, or leaning towards them as they talk. This can let them know that you’re actively listening and show that you care.
Sometimes your loved one might not want to talk about hepatitis C or how the condition is affecting them. It’s important to give them space and privacy if they ask for it.
When I first received my diagnosis of hepatitis C, I remember feeling dirty and ashamed — until I learned more about it.
There are many myths and misconceptions about hepatitis C. Educating yourself about the condition can help you learn more about it and debunk any misconceptions that you might have.
This might help you gain a better understanding of what your loved one is going through and how you may support them through the process.
Consider asking a medical provider for brochures, with tips and statistics. You can also browse the websites of reputable patient organizations to find more information about hepatitis C.
Speaking from personal experience, having friends and family members support me during treatment for hepatitis C made a world of difference.
They picked up groceries, cooked occasional meals, and drove me to the doctor. They also kept my spirits high by watching movies with me, going for walks with me, and taking time to visit.
Consider asking your loved one how you can help. You might also offer to assist them with errands, chores, or other tasks.
Simply spending time with them may also help buoy their spirits.
When someone gets a diagnosis of hepatitis C, it may be overwhelming or confusing at first. It might take your loved one some time to learn about their treatment options and figure out their next steps.
You may be able to help them brainstorm a list of questions for their doctor, questions for their health insurance provider, or tasks they need to complete to get their treatment under way. Consider asking them how you can help them get started.
When someone chooses to tell to you about their hepatitis C diagnosis, it’s a sign of trust.
You can help support them by listening to their concerns, reassuring them, and offering to help them with day-to-day tasks or aspects of their treatment. Try to avoid using words that might cause them to feel sad, frightened, or ashamed — and give them space when they need it.
Offering a sympathetic ear, words of encouragement, and other support may help your loved one get started in the right direction towards recovery.
Karen Hoyt is a fast-walking, shake-making, liver disease patient advocate. She lives on the Arkansas River in Oklahoma and shares encouragement on her blog.