Living with Chronic Pain

5 Tips for Answering Questions About a Loved One’s Health


When a loved one deals with chronic pain or other health conditions, you may be asked questions concerning them. Questions about someone else can be challenging to answer, especially when they pertain to sensitive health information.

Tips for answering questions about a loved one’s health

Although uncomfortable, questions are oftentimes asked out of concern and care. Five tips for answering questions about a loved one’s health include the following:

  1. Ask your loved one how much information they are comfortable with you sharing. Knowing how to answer questions is easier when you know ahead of time exactly what can be disclosed. The person dealing with chronic pain should be able to decide what information they want shared and with whom. If a question falls outside those boundaries, you should simply state that you are not in a position to share.
  2. Consider redirecting the question to the person with chronic pain. Someone may feel better by directing questions to you instead of the person with chronic pain. This can make your loved one feel left out of the loop, or that they are being talked about instead of being talked to. Encourage the inquirer to approach the person directly to prevent these feelings.
  3. Consider the closeness of the person asking the question. For example, if a casual acquaintance asks “How is your husband’s back?” giving a general answer, such as “He’s hanging in there” or “He’s working on it in physical therapy,” is fine. For a closer friend or family member, a detailed answer may be more appropriate.
  4. Be honest. If the loved one with chronic pain is comfortable with you answering questions about their health, honesty is the best policy. Chronic pain and chronic illnesses are often taboo subjects. However, there is no shame in having chronic pain or a health condition. Being honest about the loved one’s health, if they are comfortable with it, can bring the topic into the open and decrease the stigma that may surround it.
  5. Deal with intrusive, insensitive or rude questions appropriately. Whether intentional or not, some people ask inappropriate questions. There is no need to answer such questions. For an overly personal question, a good response may be, “That is a question I don’t feel comfortable answering.” For other questions, respond with “Why do you ask?” to place the focus back on the person asking, which may make them realize that it is inappropriate.

Additional sources: Health and Slate

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