Caring for a loved one through a scary diagnosis or life-threatening illness such as cancer, especially when we have our own young families to care about, can be frightening and emotionally draining. Yet we naturally want to ensure our friend or family member is as comfortable and happy as they can be in the circumstances. While the medical care falls to the professionals, a lot of the emotional support can land on the friends and family of the patient, and they need support too. If you’re in this position currently, you’ll know that it can be difficult to know what to do for the best. Here are a few things to bear in mind if you’re supporting a loved one through illness.
Help to manage their expectations
Denial and over-expectation are commonplace with sufferers of life-threatening illness. Many people want to carry on as normal by continuing to work, support their family, and socialize with friends. It can be difficult for them to acknowledge that slowing down and taking some time to rest might be more conducive to their comfort and recovery. People can act strangely when faced with difficult truths, and in these situations, it’s important for the family to encourage them to make sensible decisions.
Research care possibilities
There’s a lot to consider after a frightening diagnosis. From insurance and finances to long-term care possibilities. Family and friends can take a lot of the stress off in these cases by researching possible future care and having that conversation with the patient, so they don’t feel like they have to make decisions alone. Discussing their preferences for care, including palliative care cancer treatments, can also help you to honor their decisions in the future. For example, finding out their preferences between homecare services and hospital or hospice care means that, if the time comes, you’re able to make those important decisions in their best interest. These conversations can also help the sufferer to come to terms with their condition, and look ahead pragmatically.
Be a shoulder to cry on
Some patients want to discuss their diagnosis, symptoms, hopes and fears, while others much prefer to stay stoic. If they’re the sort of person to express emotions outwardly, being there as a kind ear and a shoulder to cry on is a great way to remind your loved one that they’re cared for, and it can help them to find strength in unity. Allow them to lead the conversation about their fears, and ask subtle but leading questions to enable them to fully explore their feelings. If a person decides to cope with stoicism and a “stiff upper lip,” remind them that you’re available if they do need to talk, and then just stay nearby offering support in your silence.
Honor their wishes
Finally, at any point throughout their illness, it’s always vital to honor their wishes. Whether it’s regarding their care wishes as their illness unfortunately declines, or their plans to celebrate when they’re given the all clear – their illness is a personal journey for them, and honoring all their wishes is the best way to support them without taking their control away.