Supporting someone with Long COVID can be hard, especially when there is limited information about what their recovery will look like. Everyone’s recovery from COVID and experience of Long COVID will be different and they will likely want different types and amounts of support, or even no support at all. To work out the most useful things you can do to support someone with Long COVID it is important to listen with empathy and compassion and to ask them questions about what they need.
Listen: The unknown aspect of Long COVID can be scary and stressful. Listening to their concerns and experiences can help make them feel less alone during this time. Take time to just acknowledge how they are feeling.
Ask questions: Knowing what to say can be hard. Ask them how they are doing as each day their symptoms might be different. Ask them what they need at the time and determine how you can help with what they need. For some people they may need practical support but for others they may just want someone to talk to. There will be times where you may not be able to support a person exactly as they need, and it’s ok to acknowledge that. Just be direct in saying what you can and can’t do.
These are things that people with Long COVID have described wanting others to know or understand about Long COVID and what they are experiencing.
“I wish people understood 'how are you?' can be a hard question to answer. Because long covid is a rollercoaster of unknown. That I may be looking ok and feeling almost normal right now, but suddenly overdo it (whatever that may mean at the time), and suddenly all Hell breaks loose and I'm back so many steps. I wish people realised we can't predict and plan. I wish people knew there isn't a one solution fits all. And that long covid is constantly changing my reality. And that I'm not coping as well as it may look. Everything is overwhelming, sounds, lights, information.”
“Recovery is not linear nor does it happen suddenly. GP's can't cure long covid. Asking me if I am better yet, doesn't always help whilst it may be well intentioned. I may look ok but you can't see what's going on internally. Yes I may be anxious and depressed but it's not what is causing this. I am anxious and depressed cause being unwell day after day would take a toll on most people mentally after a while.”
“Don’t ask me if I’m better yet! Ask me how I’m doing today? This question I can answer.”
“If someone has long covid... Offer to help them. Visit, but don't expect conversation (however for me I need some conversation as I really struggle with isolation). Do the dishes, weed the garden, take out the rubbish... Every little bit helps. And don't judge the state of the house. Our energy has to go to our physical needs, not used up on tidying and cleaning.”
“People need to listen to the tears of someone who has Long Covid. Be patient and just sit with them. No words are necessary.”
If you are supporting someone with Long COVID, remember that for you to be able to support them you need to take care of yourself first. Maintaining healthy behaviours (such as sleeping and eating well) and seeking additional support is an important part of helping other people.
If you are an employer or manager, you can play an important role in supporting your employees or colleagues with Long COVID. It is important to take the time to discuss with them what their needs are and work with them to establish realistic and supportive expectations around their work. This may involve changes to their work schedule or working environment. Some tips include:
The NZ Long COVID Support group have put together a resource with information on how workplaces can support people with Long COVID.