Coping with parent’s long-term illness can be difficult

Dealing with a long-term
illness can be difficult, especially when the person suffering is your parent.
When roles are reversed and children have to help take care of their parents,
it can be very difficult to deal with.

When a serious illness
strikes, it can be a life changing occurrence. Life doesn’t only change for the
ill person, it also changes for all those around him as well. Children need to
be prepared for changes that may come.

First of all, children need
to realise that they are not alone. There is a huge network of people – both
within the family and out side of it – who are willing to help with the
situation. If necessary, arrange a meeting with a therapist so that your child
can vent his emotions.

While
communication between parent and child is always essential, it is particularly
important when a parent has a long-term illness.

Parents
should talk to their children and explain, as much as they can, about what is
going on. While younger children may not fully understand the situation, older
children may want to ask questions and discuss their fears.

“I think sometimes teenagers
will try to be brave for their parents, but they don’t have to be,” said
Jennifer Grant McCarthy, administrator and fund-raising manager at Cayman
Hospice Care. “Sometimes people are too busy protecting each other and they
miss out on spending time together and having really great conversations.”

Honesty is extremely
important to communication. Parents should be open with their children and
children should be honest in terms of their fears and feelings.

Children, especially
teenagers, should be on the lookout for changes in their own behaviour. Dealing
with a parent’s illness can be very emotional and very stressful and can lead
to children acting out. 

While some children will act
out in order to get attention from a preoccupied parent, older children may be
more vulnerable to drug and alcohol abuse. Changes in behaviour should be
monitored carefully. While everyone handles stress differently, some
behavioural problems can become dangerous.

Children should be aware of
their parents’ emotions too. Illnesses can be very stressful and emotionally
draining. Think about that before bringing up difficult issues. While you
should always keep lines of communication open, sometimes it is better to wait
a bit before adding to emotional issues.

Helping around the house can be beneficial to both parents
and children. While life around the house may change due to the illness, doing
chores and keeping some normalcy can be very helpful. Keeping to a routine can
help when things get tough. At some point every child will need a break from
reality. No child should feel guilty about needing time away from caring for a
parent. Look into respite care or having other family members help out in order
to get some much needed time away. ne of the most important things to remember
is that your parents love you unconditionally and appreciate all that you do to
help them in their time of need, even though they may not be in a position
where they can tell or show you.

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