Life is full of change. Couple face challenges through their relationship. However, when an illness or other health-related problem occurs, it can often lead to a crisis.
Every year millions of Americans face health-related problems; many of these problems are serious. It could be related to an accident or some kind. Diagnoses like heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, kidney failure, or other major medical problems can be life-changing and challenging to deal with emotionally.
When a health event happens to your spouse or partner, you must help them through it all. There are several ways to support them to make it easier for them and the rest of the family.
Listening is Important
Listening is incredibly important when it comes to speaking with someone who has medical issues. Frequently, people with significant health problems are dismissed and ignored when it comes to their emotions as they deal with their health problems. When a loved one seems to dismiss their feelings, it can be hurtful. Instead, listen to them when they tell you, for example, that they suffer from incontinence. The more empathetic you are, the easier the conversation will be for both of you.
Empathetic listening is something you can learn. It starts with your body language. Your body can be sending one signal as you say something different. Don't "look" like you are worried or are expecting the worst, even if you say something different. When listening, be careful you are not sending the wrong message with your body as you listen.
Be sure to talk about your fears, hopes, and expectations as you deal with chronic illness. Listen to what your spouse/partner is saying. The goal is to be supporting and not to encourage fear.
Avoid judging. Most of the time, the person wants you to listen and not judge them or offer unsolicited opinions. If they ask for your thoughts, then give them. Otherwise, listen and affirm you are hearing what they are saying.
As you listen to them, don't turn the conversation and make it about you. It is not about you; it is about them. If they ask you how you feel, you can answer them; otherwise, acknowledge what they are saying.
Help Them Maintain Their Independence
One of the worst things you can do to someone who is experiencing medical problems is take away their independence. It would help if you always tried to foster your spouse/partner's freedom rather than remove it. These are some things you can do to show your partner their medical condition does not define them:
- Purchase products that increase their independence. The more effort you put in, the more your significant other will appreciate it.
- Don't nag them about their condition. Although you might think it comes from a place of concern, your partner will likely find it annoying and think that you're treating them like a child.
Do Some Research
Another tip on how to support your partner with medical issues is to do some research. Our bodies change as we get older. We should all study up on what changes to expect. Researching the medical issue they are facing also helps you talk to them. The more you understand about their condition, the more you will recognize their needs—but remember that you shouldn't badger them, but rather, provide as much helpful advice as you can.
Being better informed will also help you and the rest of the family cope with the problem. Be sure you have accurate information. Do not depend on questionable websites or unreliable third-party sources. The internet is full of erroneous information.
Even reliable websites can be problematic. Do not diagnosis a problem or offer a cure or treatment yourself because of information you obtain from the internet. However, you can discuss the information you have obtained with the doctor, who can determine if it is relevant in your spouse/partner's situation.
Getting Second Opinions
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says seeking a second opinion from another doctor can provide a fresh perspective and new information for you and your loved one to consider.
Many times a second opinion can offer alternative treatments or even provide a different diagnosis. Rest assured, receiving second opinions is a simple and routine part of medicine, and your doctor will not feel offended. Many times your doctor may have already sought one or more different opinions that they can share with you.
In some situations, you may have limited time (for example, if immediate surgery is being recommended). Another specialist from that hospital or clinic may be able to quickly offer a second opinion, and you may find your doctor has already sought that opinion and will share that with you and your family.
Don't Wait for "the Ask"
You can help in a serious health situation to start doing things for your loved one before they have to ask for them. Make sure the bills are being paid, for example. Consider other routine things they usually would be responsible for and let them know you are taking care of them. Then ask them what other things they want you to do - and let them know when they are completed.
Talk with Doctors Together
When your loved one goes to a doctor's appointment or goes for tests, be sure to go with them. Yes, to support them but also serve as another set of ears.
If you have questions, it is helpful to write them down before leaving for the appointment. Be sure to ask the most important questions first. The doctor often has limited time.
If you hear something that you don't understand, be sure you ask them to clarify for you. Sometimes a doctor might use medical jargon that they assume you understand. Do not be embarrassed by not admitting you don't understand something they are saying.
Get their email address so you have follow-up questions you can send them in an email. Many doctors today love to communicate by email.
Nagging has been mentioned a few times for a reason. Your loved one may have been told to change their diet or take medication or attempt some physical activity. If a person is not feeling well or is scared, they may not want to do some of the things the doctor has asked them to complete. Perhaps because of pain or discomfort, or fear, for whatever reason your spouse/partner may not comply.
Nagging usually is not helpful. Instead, support and encouragement can help your loved one to stay on track. You could ask the doctor for ways to help. Remember, the more you nag the greater chance your loved one will resist.
Accept Offers of Help
If friends and family are offering help, do not say no! Depending on the situation, you may face high stress and anxiety levels as both of you experience the medical crisis.
If people want to help with housekeeping, cooking, doing the laundry, etc., say yes and thank you. There is no need to be a martyr. The help will reduce the burden you may be facing and improve your emotional well-being.
When your spouse/partner needs long-term health care, you will have many different options to choose. Some of these options will depend on the number of resources you have or if you own Long-Term Care Insurance.
If your spouse/partner has Long-Term Care Insurance and requires extended care, be sure to use the policy. There is no need to delay using the policy. Most LTC Insurance policies pay benefits for in-home care or facility care.
Paid care services can be very expensive and could be prohibitive if a policy is not in place. Family members may want to set in to help provide care. However, it will not take long for them to face physical and emotional challenges as well.
Planning Makes Things Easier
Discussing what will happen if you or your spouse/partner has a health event due to an illness, accident, or the consequences of aging in advance will empower you and your family.
Put together a Power-of-Attorney for health care. Investigate Long-Term Care Insurance. Discuss your end-of-life wishes. These topics might be difficult, but when you discuss them before a crisis starts it will make the inevitable crisis easier on everyone.
About the Author
Mallory Knee is a freelance writer for multiple online publications where she can showcase her affinity for all things beauty and fashion. She particularly enjoys writing for communities of passionate women who come together for a shared interest and empower one another in the process. In her free time, you can find Mallory trying a fun new dinner recipe, practicing calligraphy, or hanging out with her family.
Contributor since September 25th, 2020
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