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Helping families find their way

When a diagnosis of a debilitating condition or terminal illness is given to one’s loved senior one, it can be a very difficult and emotionally unstable period for family members. Each family member grieves, but in different ways.  They usually experience feelings of confusion, fear, helplessness, sadness, doubt in God and outright denial, albeit to varying degrees. Depending on each member’s coping strategies, they work through their emotions in different ways.

Emotions have an influence on how we live and interact with others.  Indeed, they influence the choices we make, the actions we take and all our perceptions. Although, there’s no one foolproof way of helping families to navigate through this difficult period, It is still imperative, that families and even friends of seniors living with a debilitating condition or terminal illness are empowered through information to help them cope and maintain their emotional health and stability, throughout this period.  

Recently, an amazing young man, Sean Stephenson, died, aged forty. He was born with a genetic condition Osteogenesis Imperfecta and given barely 24 hours to live after birth. As fate would have it, Sean lived for 40 years, and actually managed to outlive all the doctors who gave the initial grim diagnosis. Now what is my point? My point is this, that we must heed what our doctors tell us, but we must not mistakenly place absolute faith in what any doctor says, but only on God’s word. In addition, families must not just “give up” on their seniors and sink into total helplessness because of a doctor’s diagnosis. They must ensure that their elderly ones are given the best care possible and ensure their quality of life while still alive is second to none, within their resources of course.

As professionals involved in senior care and management, we can be a veritable resource for giving information and advice, to empower families and friends of seniors living with a debilitating condition or terminal illness, to give the best care possible, while also maintaining their own emotional stability.

Families and friends must learn to adjust and live their best lives, while coping with their elderly ones debilitating condition or terminal illness. They must be wary consumers of medical services, particularly in a country like Nigeria where misdiagnosis is very common. At Rockgarden Homecare Agency, we are constantly evolving and coming up with strategies on helping families cope and have a great life regardless of the daunting challenges of caring for their elderly ones with medical conditions. We are committed to helping families navigate this difficult period through the following steps:

  • Recognizing the extent of the medical condition. Denial is very common among families who have just received a grim diagnosis about their elderly one. In Nigerian lingo, the phrase “it’s not my portion” aptly captures the outright denial family members express when they receive the diagnosis that their elderly one has a cancer or dementia. Family members all too often may put their wellbeing aside in caring for their ailing seniors or do nothing. Either way, it may affect their physical and psychological health.

 

  • Helping to strengthen their support system. By bringing families caring for seniors with debilitating illnesses together to form pressure groups and become advocates for elders with such conditions. Furthermore, by encouraging such families to work with outside caregivers like Rockgarden Homecare Agency to help lessen the emotional and physical strain of caring for a loved one. Opening up the lines of communication between families and professional care givers must be on an on-going basis.

 

  • Advice on coping strategies. Let’s face it, caring for a senior with a debilitating condition isn’t the easiest thing in the world. Family members differ in their coping strategies also. For some people, coping strategies may include going to the gym, engaging in varied recreational activities, grocery shopping, taking breaks while other family care givers take charge, spending some quiet time alone in the church or mosque etc. The list goes on and on, as long as its anything that the family care giver enjoys, and it does not have the potential to cause emotional harm or affect physical or mental health.

 

  • Advise against substance abuse. This is another important aspect of helping families find their way through the tough times of caring for their elderly loved ones. It’s very easy for family members to find solace in drugs and alcohol when emotions become overwhelming. They must be informed that this is not the way to go, as it can only exacerbate their pain and suffering once the effects wear off. If family members emotional health seems to be in a precarious state, then psychotherapy or prescription medications may be considered, and often can be of great value in alleviating symptoms such as depression and anxiety.

 

Concluding thoughts:

We recognize that families are usually overwhelmed with emotions following a debilitating condition or a terminal diagnosis of their loved seniors. There is no one way or “one size fits all” approach in helping families deal with this situation, as families handle stressful situations differently. However, a compassionate approach from professional caregivers like Rockgarden Homecare Agency will always open doors through which families can be reached and helped to live their best lives, regardless of the challenges of caring for their elderly loved ones.

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