Impacts of illness on your family
October 9, 2021
When someone has a major accident or life-threatening illness, the impacts are felt not just by the patient diagnosed but the entire family unit.
The patient and family have different needs as each person in a family play a specific role that is part of the family’s everyday functioning. When one person gets ill, this impacts the entire family as other family members must alter their lifestyle and take on some of the caring responsibility, which affects their own normal role functioning.
The extent of family disruption depends on the seriousness of the illness, the family’s level of functioning before the illness, socioeconomic considerations, and the extent to which other family members can absorb the role of the person who is ill.
In some instances, a major illness brings a family closer together; in others, even a minor illness causes significant strain. It is important to identify what the illness means, not only to the individual but also to the family. Asking them what they consider major problems and how they plan to handle specific situations can help you assess the meaning of the patient’s illness to the family.
An illness can impact in many ways:
- Financially with additional costs for medical & prescriptions
- Work and salary
- The mental health of the patient and the family
- The conflict between family members
It is important to develop a sense of balance between understanding the health issue, the person’s recovery and personally dealing with the emotions that comes from someone close to you being ill.
How can you look after yourself?
When caring for someone else, it’s important to remember to look after yourself and other family members too.
- Allow for regular ‘time out’. Make sure to make time to regularly do things you enjoy and to socialise. Ask about respite care to give everyone a break.
- Talk about how you feel. Don’t ‘bottle up’ feelings if you are sometimes frustrated or need support. Let the treating health professionals and others know how you feel, and ask for support if you need it.
- Be sensible about what you reasonably can – and cannot – do. Try to prioritise and organise what you need to do, by making a weekly list for example.
- Don’t try to do too much. Pace yourself and lookout for signs that you are becoming stressed. Have a plan for what to do if this happens.