A chronic or terminal illness is something that no one expects to happen to a loved one. It can be difficult to accept this news for yourself, to help your loved one accept this realization, and to share this information with other people. Below are some suggestions on how to make this process easier.
In order to help your loved one, you must accept the diagnosis yourself. During this time, you will experience an array of emotions, including anger, guilt, and sadness. Be mindful that each of these emotions is perfectly normal and that it is okay to feel all of these things. Allowing yourself to express these feelings is important, and while some people express feelings naturally, others have to remind themselves to do so. Communicate whatever feelings you may have in whatever way you perceive to be most effective, whether this is by journaling or having a discussion with friends, family, or a therapist. Also, be aware of other family and friends’ needs as you deal with your own feelings. In the instance where you are unable to share and others are, it is better to excuse yourself from the setting rather than fully reject it. While you accept and cope with the diagnosis, be mindful that your loved one is doing the same. When offering support to them, keep in mind:
- Physical and mental incapacity are not equated.
- Don’t exclude or isolate your loved one from family matters if it is reasonable to do so.
- Make sure you don’t neglect your own needs because you are too busy caring for the other person.
- Don’t ignore the little things throughout the day.
- Accept that your loved one will experience fear and isolation on their own and that you can’t control those feelings.
As a caregiver, you provide invaluable emotional support to your loved one. Keep your loved one active and encourage them to share their feelings by attentively listening and providing encouragement. Be aware that although your loved one may share negative emotions or fears with you, you don’t have to respond with similar ones. An illness affects a person’s physical, mental, and spiritual well-being and everyone has a different emotional schedule. Take note of your loved one’s emotions and ask how they feel to better understand their emotional state. Be honest with them a try to focus on the positive aspect of the situation rather than feel sorry for them. Being present with them is also one of the most valuable things you can do. Pay attention to every story regardless of how many times you’ve heard it before, and visit or send cards as often as possible.
It is likely that you will be asked to share the diagnosis with family and friends, and each person will react differently to the news. However, the decision about how your loved one’s diagnosis is communicated and when is ultimately up to them. Once the decision has been made to share this, some will be willing to provide support right away-from cooking meals to having emotional conversations, while others may back off from the situation in an attempt to come to terms with the diagnosis. It is important not to dismiss either of these coping mechanisms. Also bear in mind that we tend to remember the things we are emotionally able to handle, so it may be necessary to repeat certain parts of the diagnosis, facts about your loved one’s current situation, or future predictions more than once to some family members.
Even though coping with a diagnosis can be difficult, by following the above tips, you and others can assist your loved one. If despite these efforts you still feel overwhelmed, Care Right can help provide the support that is greatly needed by caregivers. We prioritize the safety and well-being of your loved one and can help you navigate the available options based on your needs, concerns, and long-term goals. By empowering families to make the right choices and serving as your family’s advocate, we provide a support system for caregivers to lean on. You can reach out to us at (800) 741-0302 or by scheduling a free 30-minute consult here.