How to Help a Loved One Through a Migraine: Tips for Caregivers

#1: Believe them when they say they’re having a migraine.

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One major challenge for people who suffer from migraines is that they might not always get the support they need. Because their condition is invisible, friends and family might not take the pain seriously, leaving the individual to struggle on their own and feel abandoned.

“Family members of [people who get migraines] have to understand that this is a real condition—with real consequences,” says Mark Green, MD, neurologist at Mount Sinai Hospital.

What Caregivers Need to Know About Migraines

For starters, migraines are serious, debilitating, and real. When friends, coworkers, bosses, and family members doubt the reality of someone’s migraines, stigmatizing judgments can occur.

Migraines may cause an individual to call out from work, miss social events, or not follow through on commitments. “People think you’re lazy, or that you’re trying to get out of things,” says Dr. Green. This can be frustrating for the individual, who may otherwise try to be reliable or disciplined.

“This is a biological problem,” says Dr. Green. Learn more myths about migraines here.

How to Help Someone with Migraines

If you live or spend a lot of time with someone who is prone to migraines, one of the best ways you can help is by allowing them to stick to a regular and consistent schedule. That might mean encouraging them to eat meals, go to bed, and wake up at similar times each day.

For example, if your loved one wants to head home early on a Friday night, it’s best to respect that. Urging them to “live a little” and stay out later could result in a migraine later, since inconsistent sleep is a migraine trigger.

For parents of children with migraines, you will likely need to take a more active approach in preventing migraines. Encouraging your child to drink plenty of water, eat fresh food on a regular schedule, minimize caffeine intake, sleep at the same hours every night, and exercise regularly can all help avoid migraines, according to the American Migraine Foundation (AMF).

If your loved one notices early migraine warning signs, let them get sleep.  “Leave the people to themselves to sleep, to allow the room to be cool, to darken the room, and [if] they want, to supply them with cool compresses for their head,” says Dr. Green. Here are more home remedies to soothe a migraine.

Above all, one of the best things you can do is support them: Believe their pain, don’t blame them for their migraine, and don’t guilt them for missing events.

“The biggest stigma of migraine is it’s all in your head, and if you were not such a wimp, you wouldn’t have this problem,” says Dr. Green. “We want the caregivers to be educated and understand what migraine is all about, and be part of the migraine treatment team.”