Even those of us who can seemingly deal with anything life throws at them personally can be devastated when someone close to them is diagnosed with a chronic or terminal illness. It can be terrible to watch a formerly strong loved one lose their mobility and perhaps even their grasp on reality, while the burden and stress of caring for someone can wear down even the strongest personality over time.
Such a situation will place strain on any family, but fortunately you will not be the first to be thrust into such a situation. Learning from the experiences of others along with a little planning, will reduce the pain for all concerned.
Share the Burden as Much as Possible
Whether the affected family member lives with you full-time or not, bear in mind that you cannot effectively support another person if you're in poor shape yourself, either physically or emotionally. Everybody needs some time for themselves – this is especially important to remember if your sibling, spouse or other relative takes most of the responsibility for caring for the ill individual. Shouldering part of the burden and giving the carer an occasional day off will probably be appreciated far more than you realize.
Even if you don't have access to help from the rest of the family, it might be possible to share the load without having to pay for full-time care at home or at a facility. Contacting your local hospice is a good way to get in touch with volunteers who might be able to assist.
Don't Neglect the Psychic Aspect
“The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease.” William Osler, co-founder of Johns Hopkins Hospital
While the physical effects of chronic disease can be bad enough, don't forget that pain can be mental as well. In order to best care for a suffering family member, you will have to educate yourself, which also means learning about the mental health aspects of coping with chronic illness.
You will find that many resources are available to help you with this, but you should also realize that every individual is different. Since the expense of caring for someone with a chronic disease is usually very high, it's fortunate that individual counseling from BetterHelp is now available at low cost. Connecting with a qualified therapist to discuss counseling topics ranging from processing grief to helping children deal with the situation will yield incalculable benefits to all involved.
Manage the Environment, not just the Disease
One of the greatest advantages of caring for a sick relative at home is that they're not forced to spend all their time among strangers in a clinical environment. Making the effort to keep this environment as pleasant as possible will not only support the patient's state of mind, but also improve the experience of caring for them.
Organizing social activities and making sure that visitors know enough to be supportive of the sufferer's specific requirements, from having to follow a specific diet to requiring other treatment regimens on a rigid schedule, will help reduce emotional tension and improve the whole group's happiness.
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Research supports the claim that patient outcomes actually tend to improve when they are cared for by family in a home setting. There are also many practical benefits to this treatment option, from being less expensive than a medical facility to the social support relatives can offer.
This doesn't mean that taking care of an ill relative is always easy or pleasant. However, if you take the time to learn as much as you can about what is involved, you may find the experience to be extremely rewarding.