Thanks to improved health care, access to nutritious foods and exercise, more people are living longer than they did 50 years ago. However, for some, living longer may mean living with a chronic illness such as heart disease, COPD (emphysema), arthritis, strokes and Type II diabetes.
In her new book “When Someone You Love Has a Chronic Illness” (Cedar Fort, $13.99), Dr. Tamara McClintock Greenberg offers the following tips for those who care for loved ones with a chronic illness.
• Deal with worries by writing them down. This will help distinguish what you can and cannot control. Worrying about things outside of your control is unproductive.
• Acknowledge your own anxiety. Ask appropriate questions and be flexible. Be positive, but don’t feel like you have to constantly cheer up your loved one.
• Prepare for doctors’ appointments the way you would a business meeting. Most doctors don’t have time to deal with emotional worries.
• Fear and anxiety associated with an illness may result in denial. Confronting reality in healthy ways opens communication, which is healing for everyone involved.
• Take time for self-care. It’s hard to care for someone else’s needs if you are neglecting your own health.
• Seek support from others in a similar situation. Start a blog or find another effective way to communicate with a support system.
• Often the best way to help people with chronic pain is to encourage them to stay involved in as many of their normal activities as possible.
• Face and deal with feelings of guilt and anxiety. Not doing so usually results in unhealthy behaviors for both the caregiver and the chronically ill loved one.
• Feeling helpless is not uncommon. If you feel helpless, find an appropriate person to talk with about your feelings.
• Each of us deals with loss differently. Grieve on your own timeline and in your own way.
Greenberg is an LDS writer and speaker who has a private psychotherapy practice in San Francisco, where she lives with her husband and their two dogs. Her website is at tamara-greenberg.com.
Rosemarie Howard lives in a 100-year-old house on Main Street, Springville, Utah. She enjoys creating multimedia projects. Her website is at www.dramaticdimensions.com.