Learning to live with a chronic illness is an exhausting challenge


Learning to live with a chronic illness is an exhausting challenge for everyone involved. From diagnosis until either the illness resolves or the client’s life ends, that individual and family must make every decision and every move with the chronic illness in mind.;

The social worker’s role is many times fairly limited. It is often a matter of following the client and seeing that their basic needs are being met. At times, it does take on the role of sleuth when the social worker is able to go in search of resources to help pay for special needs for everything from prostheses to new treatments. At the very least, it is to help the client and their family to hold on to hope.

To Prepare:

Interview an individual who has a chronic illness. With the individual’s permission, interview them about what it is like to live with a chronic illness, the most difficult parts of being chronically ill, how they manage their illness, what aspects—if any—frighten them, what kind of social support and family support they have, how willing they would be to try new treatment methods, and which social worker stands out most in their mind (good or bad) and why.

In a 5-6-minute video reflect on the following: 

  • How did it feel for you to talk candidly with an individual about their illness? 
  • Who would you say was more uncomfortable talking about it—you or the person you were interviewing?
  • Why? 
  • How informed was in the individual about their illness and the treatments and prognosis? 
  • How supported did this individual feel from the community, and how did that support change from before they became ill? 
  • What insights did you gain from this experience that you will take into the field as a social worker to help when you work with clients with chronic illnesses?