How to Deal With a Chronic Illness in the Family

The diagnosis of a chronic illness within a family will have an impact on every family member. The fear and anxiety it provokes can add major strain to the family dynamic, even causing some marriages to break up from the pressure.

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A sick family member affects the whole family.

So, it’s very important for the health and happiness of each family member, especially the one who’s ill, that measures are taken to ensure that everyone’s emotional and physical needs are supported during such a difficult time. Since it can be difficult to predict how each person will handle the stress of the situation, here are tips for how to deal with a chronic illness in the family:

Be open and honest. You may think you’re protecting them, but not telling certain family members about an illness can cause resentment when they find out down the road. While you don’t have to share every detail, it’s important to inform close family members (including children) of the nature of the diagnosis and what it will mean for the family’s future.

Educate yourselves. Don’t be afraid to ask multiple the doctor questions about the diagnosis and research on your own at the library and on the internet. Encourage children to ask questions as well and be prepared to provide answers. Children tend to blame themselves for negative things that happen to a family, so be ready to assure them that the illness is not their fault. Visit our Patient Education Center to learn what to expect for a number of conditions.

Take advantage of support groups. Ask your doctor or local hospital for support group recommendations and research them on your own to see which provide the services you need most. Having others to talk to who can relate to a common diagnosis will be comforting to the patient and family members alike.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. When friends and neighbors ask if there’s anything they can do, take them up on their offers. Ask for whatever you need, whether it’s prepared meals, a ride to the doctor’s office, a babysitter, or just a shoulder to cry on.

Don’t neglect yourself. If you’re the primary caretaker of an ill person, the stress can become overwhelming. If you find yourself near your breaking point, ask for support and take the time to decompress with a long walk, a relaxing bath, or just time to cry and release your emotions.

If you’ve experienced a serious diagnosis in your family and have additional tips, please share them with us below.

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