Watching the physical and mental decline of a family member or close friend can be the most difficult situation you encounter in life. Seeing someone who used to be so vibrant and full of life, now in a weak and frail state is a tough pill to swallow. It is sad to see, but it is a natural part of the cycle of life. When a family member gets very ill it is important to also be mindful of your own well-being.
Some might say that it is selfish to think about yourself in a time when someone you love is fading away. That is wrong. In fact, in times like these the loved one whose health is declining needs you the most; so it would be selfish to not be emotionally strong for them. This is why it is so important to make sure that you have everything you need in place to be there for them and offer support.
Watching them slowly deteriorate is not easy. It is normally a long drawn out process that can often take years before the loved one finally passes. This struggle will test your mental fortitude. It will tire you out. Most people who are in this situation are so concerned with the person in the hospital that they often neglect their own well being. While you are dealing with decline in health of a loved one over many years, you will naturally begin to tire from all the stress. The problem is that some people get worn so thin that they eventually are unable to offer quality support.
Sometimes the stress can spill over into other areas of your life, like work problems, or fights with your spouse or children. Also, if you are responsible for contributing to the health care bills of the family member, it can add yet another stressful problem to your plate. By keeping yourself healthy and being mindful of your well-being, you can potentially avoid many conflicts.
How to Take Care of Yourself?
If you find yourself in a situation where you are helping take care of some of the day to day task for a loved one due to their poor health, you are probably stressed out. Some of the following tips should be used to ensure that you do not get worn out and can continue providing support for your family member.
Talking honestly and openly about the situation with family and friends is a great way to explain difficulties you are having. It also provides an opportunity to discuss any problems before they arise. if people are unwilling to discuss problems, the chance of finding effective solutions to problems becomes unnecessarily difficult.
Continue What Makes You Happy
Don't get sidelined from life and the activities that you love because you are stressed out. Sports and hobbies are not only great for taking your mind off of whatever is bothering you, but also the teammates and friends that you make within these activities might be able to offer support and advice. For more information on this topic check out Continuing Hobbies After Tragedy.
Talk to a Professional Therapist
It is incredible how much a therapist can help you. The sigma surrounding mental health is diminishing, but don't let it deter you from seeking help from a therapist.
Carroll from Michigan wrote to us not to long ago about her experience dealing with the declining health of a loved one. Her email is what got me to start thinking about this topic, which eventually led to this article. Carroll had been dealing with declining health of her father for two years and said:
"It was heart breaking seeing my dad become weaker and weaker. I was always worried about getting a call from the hospital. It wasn't until I started seeing a therapist regularly that I was able to settle in, and come to terms with my fathers health."
Keep a Diary
Some people may think it is childish to keep a diary, however research shows that writing down your feelings is a great way to express yourself, as well as conceptualize problems you face in life. Hopefully some of these tips can help you set a strong foundation for yourself so that when your loved ones health is poor, they know that they can confide in you for love and support.
If interested then check out Coping With Grief and Tragedy for a in depth look at the topic of grief.