When there is an Illness in the Family

When there is an Illness in the Family

Mental Health Tips from William James College Faculty: When there is an Illness in the Family, by Stanley Berman, PhD, Vice President for Academic Affairs.

Tips for Healthy Management of an Illness in the Family

  • Maintain healthy and on-going communication within the family. Use ten minutes after a family dinner to update one another on any new information about the ill family member and to check in on how each family member is coping. Support one another.
  • Talk honestly on a regular basis with someone you trust, like a partner, a close friend, a clergy or a mental health counselor about your reactions and concerns.
  • Appoint a close family member like an adult sibling or cousin or a close friend to serve as a gatekeeper. This individual can receive phone calls and electronic messages and keep the concerned community of family and friends updated, without intruding on the family.
  • Use helpful websites like www.CaringBridge.org to keep your circle updated and use www.LotsaHelpingHands.com or similar websites to coordinate people’s offers of help with transportation, baby sitting or delivering meals.
  • Seek out a patient or family member support group for individuals coping with a particular illness. These groups are often offered without charge at hospitals and clinics and by national illness non-profit organizations.
  • Help give young children and adolescents an effective approach to respond to caring teachers or neighbors that make inquiries. They need a simple way to thank the individual and provide a “headline” without feeling the burden of a full report to every caring inquiry.
  • Find comfort in a faith tradition or a life philosophy that helps you make meaning about a life experience that is so hard to fathom and to accept.
  • Take time for self-care and respite. Take a walk alone or with a friend, exercise, do yoga, meditate, go to the movies. No one can be on duty all the time without a break and a distraction.

A serious illness has a significant impact upon the entire family. Consider how these tips may make your journey somewhat easier.


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