How to support a family member suffering from a medical condition

When people become ill it affects not just them but the rest of the family as well, and if severe then it can cause stressful disruption to family life. There are various ways in which we can support ill relatives.

At a time when reorganisation of the NHS is becoming increasingly complex, negotiating the right kinds of treatment and equipment required can be difficult, and this may particularly be the case with elderly people. So family members can be of immediate assistance in researching and speaking to healthcare professionals about the various options, as well as talking to insurance companies and private medical providers.

Additionally, where medical problems require specialist equipment to treat, the range on offer can be overwhelming, so supporting your relative to make the right choice is important. For example hearing aids by Hidden Hearing can be worn behind the ear, inside the ear, or on spectacles, and some forms of aid may only be appropriate for certain people.

If a family member has become seriously ill then they may well struggle to cope both mentally and emotionally. It’s vital for their family, friends and community to rally round at this time to support them in any way they can, to help them adjust and get through a very difficult period. Just being there to keep them company or prepare healthy meals can be a massive help in staving off depression, and a positive mental attitude is proven to be important.

Many illnesses require the application of medication at set times of the day or night, and it can be easy to get this wrong, so again it helps for a family member to be on hand with a timetable to ensure their loved one takes their medicine in the right amount at the right time. The risk otherwise is of under, or over, dosing which can lead to more serious complications. It’s a good idea to keep a large notebook to hand at all times, to record not just medication details but anything else such as appointment timings, pain records or useful phone numbers.

Helping ill relatives get to their doctors’ appointments is highly important. If someone has trouble with their mobility then walking, taking the bus or driving themselves may become difficult, and of course, taxis are expensive. Plus having someone beside you in the waiting-room and the doctor’s office can be very comforting. It also means that relatives can ask additional relevant questions that may not occur to the patient or that they may not want to ask themselves.

One other thing to point out here – caring for a sick relative can be exhausting, especially if it’s a full-time job as it sadly is for many people in the UK. For a person to provide the best possible care, they need to look after themselves too, and that involves getting enough rest, eating well and taking regular breaks to relieve stress. Sharing the load between other family members, friends and neighbours, or healthcare professionals is necessary as single-handed carers will struggle.

These are all generalised examples of how people can offer good support when family members become ill. But going back to the earlier example of hearing problems – specific ways to help include gently pointing out to someone that they are having difficulties every time they mishear something, and encouraging them to talk to a hearing specialist and offering to accompany them to the appointment.

People with hearing difficulties may have trouble engaging at social functions, which can make them feel isolated. They will struggle dealing with phonecalls, or following instructions given to them in noisy environments, and they may have problems at work as well, so family members need to be aware of these difficulties, help them manage them, and constantly remind them of the benefits of getting their hearing looked at.

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