Not only are we sick and getting sicker, we are also sick and caring for those who are sicker than we are. Depending on your age, you may fall into one of two categories: You’re an adult with your own children caring for aging parents, or you’re an adult that’s living with another adult that is sick or sicker than you are. The nation isn’t getting any younger to help either. As baby boomers age, 10,000 of us are turning age 65 every day according to Pew Research (pewsocialtrends.org).
If you’re a baby boomer, you’re likely going to be sicker than your predecessors and you’re likely to live longer with illnesses such as depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, coronary artery disease, heart disease, high cholesterol, kidney disease, cancer, or dementia.
Helping your parents, spouse, or others is an emotionally gut-wrenching, life changing, experience. You may second guess yourself frequently–am I doing the right thing here?
Your life changes dramatically. Social events with family and friends becoming less and less. Those who used to ask you out—stop asking.
Taking care of loved ones is about working within a team and communication, but much of our healthcare system is not equipped to handle the multiple transitions and chaos that occurs with patients who have multiple chronic illnesses. When you treat one component of an illness, it has repercussions on all the other illnesses, which requires changing routines, medications, and another lifestyle change. Managing the constant change is frustrating and exhausting for patients and those who care for them.
For these reasons, it’s crucial that assessment and treatment is about the whole person—not a blood test, not a disease, not an ultrasound—but the person that is enduring the constant change of a condition, the endless side effects of medication, their problems with getting help from all the places they need help from, and dealing with how their life has changed and coping with those changes.
What can you do to endure these changes from a whole person perspective?
Try connecting with others either virtually or in community groups and activities that will provide you with a way to live according to what you need within the context of your “new normal” due to your chronic illness. There are many online and other groups that provide whole person support for those with the same or similar illness.
You can also create your own social networks that support you and others. What may comfort you may also comfort someone else—share it with others. In this way, you create a sense of accomplishment, purpose, and feeling needed and understood that may not have occurred before you were willing to help others in the same situation. Conversely, asking others for help for a particular concern or condition can help alleviate loneliness, isolation, and helplessness that many people feel when they’re dealing with the complexities of illness. This is true for patients and caregivers.
Explore yourself and what you need to do things differently from now on. This is a process that occurs over time. It can take everything into consideration—mind, body, and spirit. It’s alright to change your needs and wants. Our lives are fluid and require change during certain times, events, or situations. Everything is not learned in one day. Take the time you need to figure out what you need now and how you will move forward with what you have learned. New learning is hard, because you don’t know it, so expect it to be difficult. That’s ok, it’s what you need now, and you’ve figured it out! Don’t minimize your efforts! They are important and will nourish your mind, body, and soul now and in your future. In doing this self-exploration process, you are caring not only for yourself, but caring for the lives of others, teaching them self-care in all the ways that one needs to be cared for. You’re now an inspiration, a motivator, a teacher, not only for yourself, but those that love and care for you, now and into the future.
I wish you all the best in your life’s journey, Sue