Maybe it’s your partner, parent or even a child that is going through a tough and challenging illness. Whoever it is in your life, watching a loved one come down with a serious illness can be incredibly challenging. It’s sometimes hard to know how to provide support and when to chip in with your two cents, particularly if they are feeling emotionally and physically fragile. When it comes down to it, the best approach you can take is to show up for them. Here are a few ways to be there for your loved one and put your best foot forward.
Being present when a loved one is unwell isn’t just about being there in the moment. It’s about listening and being with them both in body and spirit. When you have a long term illness, it can be incredibly isolating, as many of your friends and family members will never experience such a challenging phase in their life. Therefore, the best you can do, at the very basic level, is be present with them when they are talking to you. This means trying your best to understand and provide advice when they need it. You may need to also provide encouragement, particularly if they are tired and drained.
Don’t Tolerate Poor Treatment
If your family member didn’t receive the sort of treatment you would usually expect, then don’t tolerate any negligence. If it took forever for your healthcare provider to give them the right level of care as soon as they needed it, then this is grounds for legal action. Compensation for delayed treatment is a potential route to go down if you are truly not satisfied by how they were treated after diagnosis.
‘Just let me know if you need anything’ is such a well-meaning phrase, but it does put a significant amount of responsibility on the affected individual. Instead, offer to do something for them. Even asking them if they would like someone to do their laundry, make their dinner or grab some groceries could secretly make their day. Be forthright and don’t make it about yourself: just be outwardly generous, and don’t let them decline out of politeness.
Find time to look after yourself
Try not to put fear into your loved one by telling them how concerned and upset you are: they need support at this moment in time. Instead, try and find a support group of family and friends to talk about how their illness is affecting you. A significant amount of your time might be spent looking after your family member, and so when you have time to yourself, be kind to yourself. Get plenty of sleep, eat well and ensure you are fighting-fit for those challenging days.
Most people are a novice when it comes to looking after a family member with a major illness unless you are lucky enough to be medically trained. Otherwise, it’s entirely understandable to feel out of your depth. Instead of letting the responsibility overwhelm you, take time to be present and learn as you go, and most importantly, put your family member first.