Seeing a parent in the hospital with a serious illness is always a stressful and upsetting experience, regardless of your age. Because they are helpless and vulnerable, you feel helpless. This article is written for you in the hope that it will provide you with some useful advice on how to deal with such a situation.
1. Relax in between hospital visits. A simple jog or run can help you clear your mind and relax. Exercising also causes the release of endorphins, which aid in the induction of calming – if not exactly ‘happy’ – feelings.
2. Eat on a regular basis. Don’t skimp on your meals! You must look after yourself in order to have the energy to care for your loved one and cope emotionally. Sugary foods, such as chocolate, can help you cope with shock or stress, whereas berries and soups boost your immune system – many people can catch serious infections simply by visiting the hospital on a regular basis. Maintain your fortitude.
3. Use this time to better understand your relationship with your parents. You may have to step in as the responsible adult while they are powerless, just as they did for you when you were young and vulnerable. Be patient, and you will be rewarded with insights that will aid in the formation of a stronger bond between you.
4. Visit your parent with another family member or a close friend who understands your situation. In order to provide assistance. You may request some alone time with your parent if you wish; this can provide comfort for some people.
5. Write. Writing down your thoughts and feelings is an important part of dealing with your situation, because if you don’t get your feelings out in a constructive way, you’ll end up lashing out at someone else, which isn’t helpful to anyone. Begin a journal or diary specifically for this occasion, and decide whether or not to share it with family members or your parent.
6. You’re in good company. Maintain a support network of people who care about you and understand what you’re going through. Where possible, go out to eat, stay in and cook a meal, share a cup of tea or coffee, or work on a project together. If you need some space to think, don’t be afraid to spend time alone, but don’t become a recluse because this can harm your already fragile emotional state.
7. Be gentle with yourself. You may have already spent, or are currently spending, several hours in the hospital. Because the air in hospitals can be dry, bring plenty of bottled water with you to stay hydrated. Allow yourself time to go for walks in and around the hospital. If you go to the hospital with other family members, make a rota so that everyone can take some time to relax.
8. Be well-informed. Read about your parent’s illness and be aware of the next steps in the process. Prepare yourself as much as possible for what may happen next. Tell your parent how much you adore him or her as often as possible.
9. You may have to cancel a number of previously scheduled appointments. Instead of being frustrated, use the experience to reflect on how your parent must have met all of your childhood demands uncomplainingly when they, too, may have had tight schedules to consider. This will give you a sense of uniqueness while also letting you know how much they have always loved you.
10. Pray. It makes no difference what religion you practise – or whether you practise any religion at all. This is a spiritual appeal to something greater than yourself, a way of expressing your feelings in the form of a prayer, either to a god/goddesses/gods or simply to the Universe itself. It will assist you in getting through this difficult time.
I’m hoping for the best. Hope is sometimes the best thing you have.
11. If you’re comfortable with it (keep in mind that some people aren’t), pay your parent as many visits as you can and talk to them as much as you can. They can explain what’s going on and reassure you.
12. Cry. Crying is cleansing and aids in the release of pent-up emotions, washing bottled-up’stuff’ from your system. Don’t be afraid to cry; the supportive people you surround yourself with will understand.
13. Speak with your parent’s doctor, nurse, or caregiver. They’ll be aware of the treatment they’re receiving and will be able to answer any questions you may have.
14. If the illness is severe and you are the primary caregiver, you must be prepared to provide care if and when they are discharged. Schedule accordingly, keep a small note pad and pen on hand at all times, and keep a diary and record of medications and reports (in a file) as they may be required later as sessions progress.
15. Maintain a positive attitude. There’s a lot to be said for staying as positive as possible in this situation. Your parent may be concerned about the financial burden their situation has placed on you. Remember that they are not accustomed to this role reversal after spending their entire lives as the responsible adult for you. If they can see or sense that you’re ‘holding up’ and being positive, it can help relieve some of their anxiety. The advantage for you is that nothing is ever hopeless, and the end only serves to pave the way for a new beginning. There is always the possibility of success. Positive thinking, if nothing else, takes some of the sting out of stress.
16. Prepare yourself for what is to come. Be ready, but don’t let forethought make you give up. Unfortunately, nothing can emotionally prepare you for the deterioration of a loved one’s condition. However, being practically prepared will result in far less stress for you and those around you in the event that the worst-case scenario occurs. Consult the treating physician or nurse and ask them to explain the risks and any potential side effects of the treatments.
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