Last week, the U.K. marked Carers Week, which got me thinking about how a chronic illness diagnosis often affects a patient’s entire family.
Most often, patients are the focus of a diagnosis, and the people around them are almost forgotten. The thing is, a diagnosis often affects the people around a patient more than one might think. And the person being diagnosed will look to members of their family for support.
When I interviewed my mum on my podcast way back in December (does anyone else feel like that was a million years ago?), I learned so much.
We spoke at length about how my multiple sclerosis diagnosis affected her, and what was going through her mind at the time, and I learned a lot. Like that, our relationship became even more important.
After a diagnosis, relationships change. In my case, the person who had to live with me and deal with absolutely everything was my boyfriend at the time, who is now my husband.
We were never given any help or advice about how to handle a situation like a diagnosis, which could have really helped us at the time.
After speaking with him on my podcast and learning his perspective, I thought I’d make a list to pass on to those who have a loved one going through a diagnosis right now. The list is from the perspective of a chronically ill person.
My advice for supporting a loved one going through a diagnosis includes:
- Try not to Google symptoms or tell them what symptoms they should be feeling.
- You can only deal with what is in front of you right now. Whatever happens in the future will happen, whether you worry about it or not. Focus on today instead. Everything is one step at a time.
- Make their surroundings as normal as possible for them. Encourage (but don’t force) your loved one to eat, dress, and if they can, take a slow walk together to get some fresh air.
- If they are feeling stressed, try playing meditation music on YouTube.
- Be aware that your loved one will feel things they can’t explain.
- Your job is not to solve problems, and sometimes just holding them and telling them everything will be OK is enough.
- Understand that your loved one may be feeling confused and scared, so tell them as much as possible that you always will be there for them and that you love them.
- Encourage them to keep a diary so they can move their thoughts and worries out of their head and give them somewhere else to live.
I really hope these suggestions help. If you could give advice to someone caring for a loved one, what would it be? Please share in the comments below.
Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.
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