How Do You Take Care Of a Sick Family Member?
Tis the season for colds and flu, and many families, despite their best efforts at prevention, find themselves taking care of a child with a bad cold or an elderly relative with pneumonia. No matter how serious the ailment, having someone sick under your roof can wreak havoc with everyone’s schedules.You have to do everything you usually do – get the other kids off to school, get ready for work and head out the door on time – along with a million household chores and ongoing responsibilities.In this article, we offer tips and strategies for coping with an unwell family member and keeping the house running smoothly. It’s vital that you don’t make yourself sick while caring for someone else who’s sick. So while you may be tempted to devote all your energies to the individual who’s ill and neglect your own well-being, experts say don’t do it!Burning out doesn’t help anyone, and it makes you more vulnerable to becoming sick yourself. As the saying goes, “this, too, shall pass,” so take a deep breath, continue reading, and learn all the ways in which you can help the situation improve and take care of your loved one.
- First, Get Medical Advice
If it’s your child home with an earache or the seasonal flu, parents know how to get through the worst three or four days. But if it’s something more serious (for example, if your child has picked up covid-19 at school), getting input from your physician is crucial. Not only do you need counsel on caring for the person, but you may also need input on avoiding catching the virus yourself.
Are you up to date on the vaccines?
Have you read the most recent guidelines on isolation?
Has everyone in the family had their flu shots?
All this information and more is available through your healthcare provider, so be sure to update them on your situation and make an appointment if necessary.
- Make a List Of Household Tasks & Post It On The Fridge
At a time like this, everyone in the house needs to pitch in. Sit down and draft a list of tasks that need doing each week, and assign someone to handle each one. Then place it in clear view – putting it on the fridge door is ideal – so no one has an excuse for overlooking their responsibilities.
- Do You Need To Rearrange Living Spaces?
If the person is likely to be ill for just a few days, most families can adapt to even drastic inconveniences for just a few days, like having a sick child at home whose sibling needs to bring work home from school. However, if the illness is more serious and likely to last for several weeks or months, more permanent adaptations need to occur. For example: are you moving your mother in while she copes with chemotherapy? If so, and she’s going to be there for several months, she deserves some space of her own.Perhaps the children can share a bedroom temporarily so grandma can have privacy. Or perhaps one of them can move down to the family room in the basement for a while. Help the family understand that the situation is not permanent and that helping relatives is an important and loving part of family life. Emphasizing this will give the children a chance to get to know their grandparents in a deep and real way that will contribute to good memories later in life.
- Take a Few Days Off From Work To Stabilize Things At Home
If your child is home from school because of illness, taking a few days away from the office shouldn’t be an issue. It will make your child feel better to have a parent at home, so whomever has a more flexible schedule should skip going to the office for a few days. The time at home gives you the opportunity to take care of things like getting medicine at the pharmacy, cancelling or rescheduling play dates, etc.
- Don’t Feel Guilty About a Few Takeout Meals
If you’ve got your hands full making soup, scrambled eggs and other “get well” foods for your sick child or relative, it’s perfectly okay to skip cooking for the family occasionally. We’re not suggesting that ordering pizza every day is a wise choice, but once in a while, let the gang choose their favourite take-out meal.Your priority has to be whoever is unwell, so letting your usual kitchen duties slide a bit is understandable and acceptable. The same applies to housework. Don’t feel you’ve got to vacuum three times a week when someone is down with the flu.
- Use Online Ordering For Groceries & Other Supplies
If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that ordering groceries and pharmacy supplies online is a viable alternative to shopping in person. It might cost a little on top of your usual food bill, but the speed and convenience of groceries showing up on your doorstep hugely offset the expense.
- Plan The Next Steps
If you’re dealing with a sick child who’s home with the flu for a week or so, organizing measures to get through the short term isn’t too hard. But what if someone seriously ill is going to be under your roof for several months or even a year? What do you do in those circumstances? Most importantly, it would be best if you made concrete plans.First, talk to their doctor (with your relative’s permission, of course, if they’re an adult) and get a definitive diagnosis and prognosis. The physician will suggest strategies for medical care – getting a nurse in part-time, perhaps, to help when things worsen. The doctor can also advise how to administer medications and how to use an oxygen mask if it comes to that.At this point, you should be in touch with hospice care to learn the guidelines for admittance if that time comes. The point is you need to ready yourself for serious outcomes and prepare the rest of the family, too. If everyone knows what to do if a medical emergency presents itself, no one will feel caught off guard in even the most serious circumstances.
- Don’t Ignore The Rest Of Your Family
When someone is sick, it’s easy to put all your focus on them and overlook the needs and wants of the rest of your family members. Although this tenancy is easy to fall prey to, it’s important that you guard against it.Your spouse and healthy children need your attention, and while some exceptions are understandable, leaving them to their own devices all the time has negative consequences. For example: if your 10-year-old is sick with bronchitis, should you skip the school play your teenage daughter is performing in? No!One parent can stay home, perhaps, but ideally, bringing in a caregiver for the evening is the best move. Illness doesn’t mean you should abdicate the parental duties of other children. They still need your love, support and attention the way they always have. Balance is the key here, so take each day as it comes and find a way to demonstrate your love and concern for everyone in the family, not only the person who’s sick.
- Don’t Ignore Yourself, Either
Avoiding burnout is only possible if you take care of yourself and get lots of rest. Get as much fresh air and exercise as you can – brisk walks in the morning or at lunchtime go a long way toward restoring your energy and sense of calm. If you don’t have the time, temporarily, to head to the gym for a workout at the end of your day, do an online workout at home. That way, you can unwind and do some deep breathing and stretching but still be within range if your sick family member calls out for you.
No matter how serious a family member’s illness is, it’s crucial that you don’t let the responsibilities you have at work, to other people and yourself slide. Try not to worry about the future too much – not only is it unproductive, but it’s also bad for your mental and physical health.Staying positive, staying in touch with the sick person’s doctor and staying on top of chores and duties around the house is the best path forward until the person recovers, and your schedule gets back to normal.Children getting sick in the fall and winter months is a natural part of growing up. And caring for our elders is a reality in a world in which long-term care solutions outside the home are sometimes less than ideal. If you plan it properly, and if you take care of yourself while taking care of others, you can get through this challenging period in a healthy and balanced way.
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