Tips To Help You And Your Family Cope With Serious Illness

September 30, 2019

If a loved one is living with a serious condition or illness, you’ve probably found that you’re worrying about your family a lot more than usual. Illness takes a toll on the whole family, and can be especially difficult for children to understand. Whether someone you love is being treated for cancer, or have a relative in a meth detox and addiction treatment center, here are some ways to help your family cope. 
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It can be easy to put all your focus on helping the ill person. While, of course, they will need support, remember that you can’t help someone if you aren’t taking proper care of yourself. It’s important to help your family find healthy ways to cope, so they’re a better source of support for the one who needs it most. It’s not selfish to prioritize self-care at this difficult time. 

Encourage everyone to make sure they get enough sleep and take some time for themselves. It’s important to take this time to rest, as all that worry can be exhausting. If you’re well rested, you’ll have a better chance at staying positive about the difficult situation you’re in. 

Where possible, try to stick to regular meal times when you can, and encourage everyone to eat healthy meals. If you’re properly fuelled, you’ll have better tools to manage. Cooking bulk meals in advance and freezing them can help with this. If someone in the house turns to sugary snacks for comfort, put the cookie jar away and instead make sure there are healthy snacks on hand. Keep the fruit bowl topped up and stock the kitchen cupboards with healthier options like dried fruit, nuts or rice crackers. 

Try and maintain a regular exercise routine. Endorphins released during exercise can help you to better manage stress and reduce anxiety. Encourage the rest of the family to do the same by finding active things to do together, like walks or bike rides at the weekend. 

Ask Questions
Ask questions. If you go with your relative to visit the Doctor, don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. It’s better to ask the Doctor and understand what’s happening than to rely on your friend or loved one to explain everything to you. If you think of questions between appointments, write them down so you don’t forget them. 

Be Prepared For Difficult Times
You may find your loved one’s behaviour changes, and it’s important to be braced for this. They may be sad, frustrated or angry. However they change, try not to take it personally, even if they appear to be angry with you. Stress, pain, medication and withdrawal can all make people behave quite differently. 

Let them talk to you about how they feel, but don’t push any blame their way. Instead, after a difficult visit, talk about how you feel with the rest of the family. Let children honestly express how they feel, even if they’re angry or upset after a tricky visit with a sick grandparent. Let them know it’s okay to feel this way, as treatment can be hard on everyone. 

Don’t back away from your own feelings either. If you’re telling your loved ones to be honest, lead by example and do the same. Try to stay positive, but don’t bottle up negative emotions. 

Support Each Other
For those of you who aren’t ill, it’s important to be a support to each other. Try and take some time to do normal things together, like visiting the park or having a movie night. Set aside time to sit down together and discuss how you feel. Be honest with each other and help each other to come up with coping techniques. 

Open conversation is one of the best ways to cope with any difficult situation, so make time for these talks, even if they’re painful. 

Be Practical
When you’re dealing with something as painful as illness, it can be easy for the practical side of life to take a back seat. Give yourself some breathing room by trying to get organised in advance. For example, if you know that after visiting your relative at the hospital, you come home very upset, prepare some things to help you out. This could be batch cooking meals on a good day, so you don’t have to contend with cooking when you get home, and can instead pull something healthy and tasty out of the freezer. It could be making nice plans with the family for that evening to look forward to, or just buying in a favourite treat. 

Try and stay on top of practical tasks at home, and get ahead of them on days when you feel positive. That way, on days when things are more difficult, you don’t have to worry that ignoring the chores will result in a pile-up of dishes and laundry. Recruit the whole family to break up the chores and make staying on top of everyday life and its demands that bit easier. 

Manage Stress The Right Way
Coping with illness is always stressful. Try to manage that stress with healthy techniques. Talking, exercise and mediation can all be effective, and are healthy ways to ease the tension. Don’t turn to things like alcohol to help, as this will only make the problem worse. 

If the family are struggling to cope, consider booking some time as a group to see a counsellor. A counsellor can talk through with you the worries you have, and teach you better coping techniques and ways to help and support each other. 

A support group for families in your situation could also be helpful to you, as you can talk to others who are going through the same experiences. If you can’t find a group you can attend in person, search for a group online. There are many groups, forums and message boards online like this. Try a few to find the best option for you, and for the rest of the family. 

*contributed post*

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