What You Need To Do When A Loved One Receives A Medical Diagnosis
After you and your family receive the news of a medical diagnosis for someone close to you, especially when it is for one of your family members, you will probably be overwhelmed. Take a breath and know that there is help and there are things you can do to get through this time in your life while becoming accustomed to your new normal.
Find Helpful Resources
If you are not a medical professional, home health aide, or insurance provider you may not understand the nuances or gravity of what a new medical diagnosis for your child or other family member involves. This is why it is essential to get connected with helpful resources that are specific to the diagnosis.
The resources can be broad. The information will likely contain topics and subject matter you have yet to deal with or consider as everything is still so new and overwhelming for you. Some helpful resource information will usually include:
- Referral services for specialists
- Financial aid information
- Adaptive transportation services
- Adaptive and mobility equipment availability and services
- Physical therapy
- Social networks and support groups
- Government services information
- Legal Aid
- Treatment options
When you are looking for useful resources, finding a national organization or a local affiliate is often a good first place to stop. Give them a call, email, text, chat, or make contact via social media. Ask any questions you may have. Let the person on the other end know that you are new to this diagnosis and will need any resources available. Ask if they conduct home visits, too.
With that, you can accept the information and sift through it to determine how to best meet the needs of your family’s current situation. Follow the organization on social media to receive new content and sign up for their newsletters. The more information, the better.
Whenever life gives you more than you feel you can handle, find someone to talk with. If there is ever a time to seek counsel, it is when you are dealing with a medical diagnosis that concerns or consumes you.
There are several options available to you and your family. Many of the most common ones may include the following:
- A licensed mental health professional is trained to listen to your feelings. They will guide you on the best path to healing, understanding, and acceptance. They will help you work through the anger or guilt issues you may be dealing with.
- If you belong to a particular religion or are established with a church community, seeking faith-based counseling may afford you the solace you seek. This can be especially helpful if you find yourself questioning the whys of your situation.
- Find a support group for parents or other family members who are moving through a life where a similar diagnosis has impacted their family unit. A support group will help you feel less isolated. The other people seated around the room or showing up on your computer screen can commiserate with needs, frustrations, anguish, and confusion. They have been there and can answer your questions. In time, you can answer theirs. At the core of a support group are people who understand.
Your partner or spouse is a wonderful resource and sounding board, especially because you are dealing with the same information at the same time. That being said, you need to continue the relationship outside of the diagnosis. Try not to spend all of your time weathering the storm together. Reach out to your resources so that you can still find joy together.
Remember that your other children or adult partner or spouse may need to process what is happening, too. Give them your time to help work through their feelings whether or not it is through you, a licensed professional, a school resource, etc. It is important and necessary for everyone to have their needs met.
Watch this video for insight into the difference between a therapy group and a support group to help you determine how to best meet your current support needs.
Find Respite Care
If there is one thing (beyond the patient’s diagnosis, of course) that is important throughout the process of caring for your loved one, it is that you maintain your health.
As you become the caretaker that stretches past your normal parenting responsibilities, you also take on the role of insurance wrangler, appointment coordinator, at-home physical therapist, night nurse, and the list goes on. Add to all of that your current duties which may include other children, your partner, pets, aging parents, and your career, and you are left with very little in your proverbial tank.
With that long list of responsibilities hanging over your head, consider this: if you burn out due to overwork and exhaustion, how can you help anyone, especially your loved one with the medical diagnosis that needs you?
This is where respite care comes in. It can arrive in many forms that range from friends and family members stepping in to give you a break to paid care. Sometimes you only need a few hours to yourself to get groceries. Perhaps you will use that time to give some much-needed one-on-one attention to your other children. The point of receiving respite is to give you time to do what you need and what you want to feel rested so you can get back to your caregiving role.
Throughout everything your family is experiencing, remember to live. If there is a birthday, celebrate. If the sun is shining, find a way to be outside and look up. Enjoy nature and everything that is still moving around you. Life may not have turned out the way you expected it to, but you can still be grateful for what you have.
It is ok to get a little down. Those feelings are a part of your experience. And then you need to pull from your resources to live your best life right alongside those you love, regardless of their diagnosis. As time passes, you may be able to return the favor to help others who are going through something similar.
- Lisa has been blogging since 2013, and loves sharing resources and ideas for living a simple life. To get free printables, bonus words, and more - sign up for the newsletter.