When a person suffers from a serious illness, it is not just the afflicted who experiences anxiety and stress. Their loved ones hurt with them when a sinister diagnosis is made. Consequently, the whole family starts to experience dread as they realise that roles, responsibilities and relationships may change. There is also the terrible feeling of helplessness, more so with chronic illnesses or with diseases where death may be imminent, such as cancer. Loved ones such as long-term partners, will be catapulted into a caretaker’s role without any prior mental preparation, which is often hugely overwhelming. An illness, be it mental or physical, is debilitating and may impair parenting skills which leaves children angry and guilty. Service providers may be useful in preventing health and behavioural problems here. Taking care of someone who is ill is both time consuming and draining. Caretakers run the risk of being sleep deprived, overworked and neglected. Therefore, it’s very important to practise self-care and to reach out to friends and family who can offer support. Otherwise, one cannot take proper care of the sick relative and strengthen family ties. Also, communicating ones needs and discussing the illness with family helps avoid frustration and misunderstandings.
– Louise Camilleri