The news of a loved one who is suddenly diagnosed with a life-long disease or physical disability can be heartbreaking. Every adult child who has dealt with a parent who is no longer the strong person they used to be can be devastating, and even more so if you’re a parent with a child who suddenly becomes sick or disabled. The parent who used to take care of you and engage in activities with you may not remember your name anymore. The child whom you imagined running across the grassy field playing a game of ball with can’t because of a physical disability or a mental disorder prevents them from understanding the game. Medical issues like these are very common, and they affect families across the globe.
Perhaps you haven’t had to face the challenge of dealing with a loved one who is sick, but things can quickly change in a moment’s notice. For instance, a parent’s routine visit with the doctor could easily turn more serious if test results indicate it. A healthy child who is innocently playing a sport could suddenly become injured to the point of making them immobile. Anything can happen to anyone at any given moment, so what can you do?
There are some situations you can prepare for and others you’ll have to adapt to. With caring for a parent, communication is vital. You and your family members can discuss hypothetical situations in the event something should happen to your parents. Asking questions such as, who will care for them? Which family member would take them into their home? Would a family care schedule work or would a home nurse be a better option? Is an estate plan in place in the event of the parent’s demise? Also, if you have a child with special needs, have you selected a school that could accommodate him/her or will homeschooling be a better option? Do you have health and life insurance for him/her? Does your job offer FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) so you can care for them without losing your job? Are there any special needs facilities that provide recreation? Questions like these should be asked and discussed beforehand if possible. Granted, these are sensitive topics that can make your parents and family members feel uncomfortable, but it’s very important to do so ahead of time. In the event of an emergency when life-altering decisions need to be made, it’ll be difficult to decide what’s best for a loved one when emotions are running high. Studies show that people who make last-minute decisions based on emotion often regret it later.
It’s true that you can’t prepare for everything, but you can learn to adapt. Once you discover that your parent or your child has a lifelong debilitating medical condition, take a moment to process what it will all mean for you and them. Communicate your feelings in prayer or with a trusted friend. You may also choose to seek advice from someone who has been in a similar situation. Keep in mind that caring for a loved one, especially parents unexpectantly is a lifestyle change. It may even feel awkward at first because your roles will be reversed but given time both you and your parent will get used to the change. Keeping a positive attitude and remaining optimistic will also help you to accept things for what they are.
Sometimes when caring for a loved one, the fatigue and anxiety along with occasional frustrations may set in. You are human, and when you already have obligations of your own, caring for someone else can feel overwhelming. As a caretaker, you must take care of your own physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs first. Ask another family member or a friend to watch your loved one for a few hours or give you a full day off. Take a drive and enjoy the change in scenery, schedule a massage or go out with your friends to dinner. Remember that you still have a life to live. Make sure that whatever you do with your free time is not work. It should be something fun and enjoyable.
At the end of the day, remember to love. Sometimes when we care for our loved ones on the regular basis, we may feel that we’re showing love, and part of it is true. However, we must express our love even deeper by being affectionate. Our loved ones need our reassurance that they are not a burden to us, but a blessing. Give them a hug or a kiss and tell them how much you love them. If they’re your parent bring them flowers or a small gift. If it’s your child, kiss them tenderly and give them a favorite toy. Encourage their other strengths and reassure them that they’re special.
Providing care for a loved one can be challenging, but with prayer, support, and maintaining a healthy balanced lifestyle it can help you to manage your situation a little easier.