By Elizebeth O Leary
Life can be full of unexpected hurdles, and when a family member faces chronic or long-term illness, this can be one of the biggest challenges for loved ones and those who care for them. But somehow or another, we conquer and press onward. Caring for a sick family member can be one of the most difficult tasks. It can be a struggle to balance caring for your loved one while maintaining your well-being. There are numerous obstacles to overcome, but remaining resilient and supporting yourself and your family is important.
A Loved One Becoming Ill Can be Challenging For the Whole Family
Taking care of an ill family member requires immense love, courage, and dedication to accept this responsibility, particularly when it is our parent we are caring for. There are many challenges for the carer and the person experiencing the illness. Initially, we must deal with the immediate cause of the illness and our worries about coping with the changing lifestyles of both the patient and carer. We instinctively put our worries and lives aside to care for those close to us, focusing on the needs of those close to our hearts. For some, it may be a mother, father, sibling, grandparents, partner, or close friend. Whatever the case, it can significantly affect the whole family.
It is OK to Admit you Feel Overwhelmed
Caring for an elderly or sick family member requires patience, energy, resilience, and dedication. You will inevitably face challenges that may make you consider giving up. The stress levels can be higher than expected, but it is important to acknowledge that you are not alone. Many others are also going through similar experiences. While it is common to suppress emotions, finding healthy ways to cope and manage them is crucial. Being there for our loved ones and showing we care is essential.
Experiencing overwhelming feelings and fear during a traumatic situation is a normal human response. Illness can trigger many distressing emotions, including anxiety, depression, and resentment. Do not hesitate to take a break if the stress becomes too much. You can ask another family member to temporarily take over or ask if it is possible to avail of home help. Having someone to care for your loved one while you have a break can give you peace of mind and enjoy a much-needed break without worries.
Managing your Time
Balancing work, family, and caring for a sick loved one can also add to feelings of stress. It can feel like there’s not enough time to do everything correctly. Unfortunately, time is a limited resource that cannot be regained.
Finding Supports and Resources
Many other helplines offer help and support for those in need. Illness can sometimes not be easy for a family to cope with. Still, it is possible to maintain and manage emotions and stress by utilising the many organisations and groups to seek help when needed.
However, you can optimise your time by doing everything you can while you have it. Use your time wisely by creating a schedule and sticking to it. Prioritise the most important tasks and let go of those that are not necessary. It is easy for negative thoughts and worries to spiral out of control, and it can be tough for the person who is ill and their loved ones to deal with adjustments to a new lifestyle while worrying about treatments and medical bills. This can take a severe toll on the whole family’s mental health. But organising your time and support effectively and uniting to support and guide each other through the challenging times can benefit everyone.
Be Kind to Yourself
Don’t be hard on yourself for feeling a certain way, as a natural response to difficult circumstances. Just takes time to focus on yourself and find what works best. Dealing with stress can be tough, and it’s important to remember that everyone has their unique coping mechanisms. Sometimes, reaching out for help can feel embarrassing, but it’s important to know that seeking support is nothing to be ashamed of. If you or someone you know is struggling, there are many ways to cope.
Here are just a few suggestions to get started
Talk to someone you trust. Whether that be a friend or other family member, it is great to have somebody you trust and somebody who will listen to you attentively.
If needed, speak to a professional, such as a doctor, GP, or therapist; sometimes, it is better to ask for professional help and advice on how to deal with your current situation.
Get a diary: If speaking to other people makes you uncomfortable, get yourself a diary and write your thoughts and daily emotions. Keeping track of how you feel daily.
Join support groups, whether that is online or in person. Joining these groups can offer real support as you can meet people going through the same situation who can help and support you and understand your problems.
Take good care of yourself: Give yourself time to relax and breathe, do things for yourself, and think. Great ways to do this include meditation, walking, or self-care at home.
Don’t live in the past: As humans, we deal with emotions such as guilt. Try not to live in the past and yet become a better person, deal with what is happening now, and show your support to those who may be ill around you.
Educate yourself on your loved one’s illness: It is better to educate yourself and know the illness rather than thinking negatively and not knowing the facts.
Ask a doctor or a health professional: Usually, this can help put you at ease knowing the facts of the illness.
Finding Supports and Resources
Many other helplines offer help and support for those in need. Illness can sometimes not be easy for a family to cope with. Still, it is possible to maintain and manage emotions and feelings of stress by utilising the many organisations and groups to seek help when needed.
Irish Hospice Foundation– Have a free bereavement helpline for those who need comfort, support, and connection and are also in partnership with the HSE. www.hospicefoundation ie Helpline: 1800 80 70 7710 am – 1 pm Monday – Friday
Family Carers Ireland –This organisation wants carers to know they have support and the need to care safely, to make it less of a battle and to know they are not alone. www.familycarers.ie Helpline: 1800 24 07 24
Irish Cancer Society–If you or someone you know is dealing with cancer and are concerned, this helpline gives you support speaking to registered nurses gaining and looking for that extra needed help professionalism. www.cancer.ie Helpline: 1800 200 70