Role of Family Members in Supporting People with Chronic Illness
In India, 53% of all deaths are caused by chronic diseases. Any chronic illness, be it physical or mental poses a huge challenge in coping. Undergoing treatment regularly for a long period of time feels like a burden and may exhaust the individual. Any person with a chronic illness has to go through an integrated interventional process which involves pharmacotherapy, psychotherapy (for mental illness), family support, lifestyle correction etc. Family support plays a very important role in intervention as well ensuring success of other interventions. Given the significant disruptions brought by the illness, management requires consistent efforts from the patient as well as people around him/her to reap maximum benefits
Mentioned below are some of the steps family members should take to help people with chronic illnesses
- Provide Support- The initial diagnosis can be difficult to accept for both the patient and his/her family. People often feel very helpless about the illness. As a family member it’s very important to actively provide support to the patient throughout. Support in this case would include normalizing the illness and its symptoms, encouraging them to express their feelings and difficulties and instilling hope about getting better. Just communicating that you are there with them often goes a long way in their response to intervention.
- Ensure adherence to intervention- Family members should take the responsibility to ensure that the patient is adhering to the treatment process. Not skipping medications, maintaining follow ups, being consistent with suggested lifestyle will have a significant role in the overall progress of the patient. Often, we come across resistant behaviours from the patient’s end. Also, as the patient gets better with treatment many of them tend to go easy with the follow ups. Thus, family members must be on their toes and try avoiding disruptions in treatment.
- Model appropriate behaviours- A big part of the intervention in any chronic illness involve lifestyle correction. Getting adequate sleep, taking meals on time, doing regular exercise are equally important in betterment as medication and other interventions. However, we often do not follow a healthy lifestyle and when patients are suggested necessary changes in lifestyle they may find it difficult to make those. This difficulty may aggravate if the patient is the only person in the family expected to make these changes. Therefore, family members should also start adopting the changes. Accompany the patient during his/her walk, do physical exercises along with them, start eating your meals the same time as you want them to, maintain sleep hygiene the same way they have been asked. Having someone with you when you are stepping into a change makes the journey much easier and has higher chances of success.
- Take care of your mental health- Professionals deal with the difficulties of a patient for a stipulated time, family members and care givers live with those difficulties. Thus they need care too! Seek help before you reach burnout. Nourishing your mental health is necessary for you as well as to ensure the quality of support and care you are required to provide the other person.