10 Ways Friends and Family Can Support Those with Meniere’s Disease

The question is often asked, “How can I help one suffering from Meniere’s disease?”   For example, Suzy’s husband Larry may be diagnosed with Meniere’s disease and she is wondering how best to help him.  You may be a friend of Larry and wonder how to support him with his ordeal.  Here are some actions you can take to help.

  1. Meniere’s often operates with no pattern.  Larry may be fine one minute and in serious trouble minutes later.  When Meniere’s strikes, the equilibrium can vanish quickly.  Larry is laughing, dancing the polka and minutes later laying in a dark corner vomitting.  Understand that.
  2. Larry may just need someone to lean on-literally.  When Meniere’s strikes and Larry needs to leave an environment quickly, grab his arm and provide as much support as possible.  His equilibrium will get worse with each passing minute.
  3. If Suzy and Larry have kids, they need to explain what Meniere’s is and isn’t.  Meniere’s is a disorder that can disable someone but is not fatal.  No matter how upsetting it is to watch Larry suffer a vertigo attack, he will live to see better days.  Young kids especially need to understand this and it is better if they are told before they witness first hand the cruelties of Meniere’s.
  4. It is good for Larry to assign a secret meaning to a predetermined saying to help exit a social situation without causing alarm.  Something innocent but meaningless like, “your cousin Bernie called earlier today.”  It really helps if Suzy has no cousin Bernie.  Once the secret message is received, actions can be taken to get Larry home safely without causing a stir.
  5. After someone with Meniere’s suffers a few unexpected vertigo attacks, they become more and more resistant to leaving home unless they have to.  If you are a friend of Larry and invite him over, don’t be to offended if he turns you down.  Wish him well and try again in a few weeks.
  6. Also be aware that if Larry accepts the invitation to come over, he may not make it.  You may see him at work and hour before your big event and he may talk about seeing you there.  An hour later (and even two hours later) there is no sign of Larry.  He is home in bed with his room spinning all around him.
  7. Suzy needs to be prepared for a time when Larry might declare that “Life is just not worth living.”  Receiving that kind of declaration from a spouse can be disconcerting but understand the person making that statement really feels that way.  Most folks who have suffered through a succession of vertigo attacks over a short period of time feel that same way.  Life really does lose its luster when Meniere’s is at its worst.
  8. Learn as much as you can about Meniere’s disease.  Understanding what Larry is going through will help you empathize with him.
  9. Sometimes all that is needed is a shoulder to cry on.  Be there for Larry and let him vent a little.
  10. Honor Larry’s feelings.  He may want a shoulder to cry on.  He may not.  He may want to talk about what he is going through.  He may not.  Help him cope with it on his terms.

On a parting note,  no one knows what causes Meniere’s disease and there is no cure.  Once diagnosed with Meniere’s disease, one has it for life.  The best thing you can do for the Larry in you life is to help him learn what he must do to manage the symptoms.  The mechanisms to combat the symptoms of Meniere’s disease seem to differ with each person.  Don’t get discouraged if what works for someone does not work for your loved one.  Accept that that approach doesn’t work, scratch it off your list of things to try and move on to the next one.

I was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease back in 1994.  Back then, the only thing my doctor recommended was the low-sodium diet.  Today there is so much more information available.  And not only can you learn about new treatments to try but you can also learn for different people what works and what does not.  Go.  Get busy.

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