Managing family relationships through serious illness
Most people living with a chronic illness soon become aware of the emotional impact their condition is having on their loved ones. In many situations, the lion’s share of caring responsibility falls on family members or close friends. Chances are that those sons, daughters, partners or friends may already be holding down a full-time job, raising a family or coping with their own health problems. Possibly all of the above. The inevitable impact on their quality of life can be huge, and caring may inevitably put a strain on, and in some cases change, the nature of that person’s relationship with the person they’re looking after.
Help is at hand
One solution is to call in a health professional or carer to help manage these responsibilities. For most people, caring for a loved one will be their first experience of dealing with a serious medical condition. It can be a distressing time for all concerned and one that can cause psychological distress.
No matter how well meaning they are, it’s inevitable that the quality of care a friend or family member can give won’t always meet the needs of the person with a chronic illness. One family member of a Promedica24 client remembers it this way:
“The assistance we gave Mum was well-intended but was not the professional care she deserved. Getting help and support with Mum’s care from Promedica24 was our best decision.” (Quote provided via Homecare.co.uk)
In the family
Should you be facing end of life care, it’s more important than ever to build positive memories that your family are going to cherish. It’s much easier to do this when thoughts aren’t dominated by worries. One son of a Promedica24 client found that employing a live-in carer restored their relationship to the way it had been before the arrival of chronic illness:
“As soon as Promedica24 carer’s arrived, we could relax knowing she was in safe hands. We could enjoy quality time with her again chatting over tea and biscuits, instead of addressing a list of her worries.” (Quote provided via Homecare.co.uk)
Hiring a live-in carer can change the family dynamic for the better. In may cases, the carer becomes an integral part of the client’s life, something that can also benefit friends and family. This is how one daughter of a client remembers the experience:
“My mum had been with Promedica24 for the last four years and during that time she received excellent care and all of the carers became one of the family.” (Quote provided via Homecare.co.uk)
In some situations, the impact of a serious illness can cause arguments, even rifts, in the family. People deal with this change in a variety of ways, some grieve and others become angrily unaccepting. The best way to deal with these sorts of negative emotions is through good communication. But for many it’s hard to know how to have those conversations.
One of the most effective ways of improving strained relationships is through counselling. Family therapy can provide a safe space for people to talk to you about how they are coping with your illness in a way that they may not be able to one to one.
Family counselling helps them but it also helps you. Mustering the energy to sit and talk frankly with children, parents or partners can take its toll on your emotional health. A trained counsellor can bear much of that weight and help bring you to resolutions that will often draw you closer to your family and impact positively on your care in the future.
Any long-term or chronic illness is going to have an impact on your finances. You might find yourself working less while having to pay for carers or transport to hospital appointments. This can in turn create strains on the rest of the family – if your partner, son or daughter is helping with your care, or taking time off work to take you to the hospital that’s going to cause a hit on their finances.
There’s an additional, often hidden pressure on people with a terminal illness. If you have a life limiting condition you may begin to worry about ‘eating into the inheritance’ by paying for long term care. The key to managing such concerns is transparency and forward planning. It can help to bring in an independent financial advisor who will be able to offer an unprejudiced eye to your situation and make suggestions about how you can afford to pay for care. There are also benefits you might well be eligible for such as Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Housing Benefit.
If you are living through serious illness while bringing up children, worries about the emotional and psychological effects it is having on them will be immense. Some parents opt to avoid the issue altogether, deciding that talking about their illness will bring their children undue worry. But children are highly attuned to changes within the family and will quickly begin to ask what’s going on.
There are no simple solutions to helping your child come to terms with your illness, particularly if it’s a long term or chronic condition. But there are things you can do to help prepare for the future, and communication is at the heart of this.
Having an open and honest conversation with your child about death is one of the hardest things any parent will face. But don’t underestimate their ability to take on difficult news and adapt. This is an important step towards helping them feel secure, and it will provide them with an opportunity to ask questions and express how they’re feeling. You’ll be surprised how much they already know and just how insightful they can be.
Customer quotes in this piece are from the family members of Promedica24 who were asked about their experience by the care review website, homecare.co.uk