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Suite B, Bellflower, CA. 90706

Phone: 562-869-6723
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Email: steward@stewardhomehealth.com

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Information is a powerful tool. If your loved one is not well, it is hard to know what to say or do. Let us help you.

The first article, listed below, provides insight into saying just the right thing to comfort a loved one. Most people are at a loss at how to do this correctly.

The second article, provides information on how to overcome anger and guilt, if you are an adult child dealing with an ailing, elderly, or terminally ill parent. In one recent study, half of all Americans rated their relationship with at least one parent as “poor”, and more than a third felt this way about both parents. But the majority also wished, that in some way their relationship could get better. This article will help.

Also, the material below is based on the work of Dale Atkins, Ph.D, psychologist, author, and correspondent for MSNBC. His very helpful book, “I’m OK, You’re My Parents,” is available to you from our office. We have several copies available for anyone who is interested, if you would like more in-depth reading. Just contact us!

What do I say to my sick loved one?
Advice on how to ease their pain and suffering.

Someone who is seriously ill needs to be spoken to in a manner that most people are unfamiliar with. The most important thing to remember is that they are in pain, physical and/or emotional, and the sole attention should be focused on what they need. One of the best ways to open a discussion, even though it may be difficult for your loved one to answer, is by saying, “Let’s think together how I can be helpful, and if there is something I can do to make you feel better.” Most often the ill person will respond by wanting you to listen sympathetically, to share their burden of suffering.

Illness brings a wide range of emotions into play. Most often they include fear, anger, disappointment, hopelessness, sadness, grief, perhaps guilt, and sometimes shame. Most likely, they feel resentful for feeling dependent. So what do you do to help the situation? Just don’t ignore the situation, gloss over it, or change the subject. Even if you are not comfortable dealing with emotions, an ailing person is the most disappointed when they feel like someone they love is not there for them. The emotional pain is often worse than the physical pain. Feeling ostracized and isolated, which is so very different than wanting to be alone, can make their illness unbearable.

So, again, what can you do? Physical touch brings great comfort. Give a hug, extend a hand, touch someone’s arm. Apply cream to the person’s hands, arms or feet. For many people, the elderly especially, they remember what they used to look like when they were They now feel unattractive. By touching, appropriately, that person can feel accepted again.

If someone is not well, the hours drag by, but long visits are often too draining. Short, more frequent visits are often more welcome. Enter their space without an agenda. Sometimes just sitting and holding one’s hand is the best thing to do. Some cures are called “talking” cures, but there is also much healing in silence. If this is the case, stay and clean up the kitchen, water the plants, or just sit and be still.

Many ill patients report the strengthening power of praying together. If appropriate ask, “Can I pray with you?” If they are unable, pray for them aloud anyway. Seeing you pray is very comforting, and uplifting.

Always remember to sit down. If you stay standing, it emphasizes a difference in “status” by standing “over” them. Try to be at eye-level. Also, even though you may have traveled a long distance, and have many pressing issues on your mind, keep focused only on what your loved one needs.

If the person wants to express difficult feeling such as anger and bitterness, do not try to change the subject or give advice. Most people who are ill just want to be able to allow things to come out, and advice inhibits the conversation. Never say, “I know how you’re feeling.” We can’t know, but we can say, “I’m sorry you’re hurting.” If the person is interested in talking, encourage them with phrases such as, “tell me more…” or “I see….” nodding, and reflect back what you heard by paraphrasing.

If the loved one is dying, don’t force the person to reveal their feelings. Sharing your own experience at a time in your life when you were scared, threatened or incapacitated, may be helpful, but do not dwell on it.

If you are having a hard time dealing with the oncoming death, tell them you are having a hard time speaking about it. Describe your feelings. It is helpful for the person to know that you, too, find it difficult.

Everyone wants to feel they made a difference while they were on this earth. Reminiscing, and telling stories about their life is one way to do this and can bring great joy.

Also remember, even if someone is gravely ill or dying, try to use some humor. Funny stories, jokes, remembering funny incidents, will lighten the scene, as well as allow the healing power of humor to take hold.

I’m Angry and Feeling Guilty. What Do I Do Now?
Improving your relationship with an ill parent is easier than it seems.

Dealing with an ailing parent is tough. it often brings negative emotions to the surface. Is there a way to make these feelings of guilt and anger go away or, at least, calm down? Surprisingly, there is. The first key comes from understanding your parents. This may be the last thing you feel like doing now, but please, just continue reading. The only way for you to improve the relationship is to know what forces shaped them in their past. Just as you are shaped by your past (your heart being broken in junior high, the joy in experiencing the birth of your own child, the pain of a divorce), so too, do they have a past every bit as poignant, surprising, and often heart-breaking. As the brain ages, it favors long-term memory. That means your parents may now remember, often fondly, details of their childhood once forgotten. This is a benefit for you. The nagging question, “Why does Mom or Dad do that?” can finally be answered.

Before you begin, think about what kind of interaction your parent handles best. Do they need to organize their thoughts and words, or do they react better “off the cuff”? Then, think about a way to create an opening. Here are a few, taken from the book “I’m OK, You’re My Parents,” by Dale Atkins, Ph.D.:

  • “Mom, I was looking through some old photos of you and Aunt Jean, and you guys look so cute and happy in your poodle skirts. And Grandma looked so young and proud. Were things as happy for you back then as they look?”
  • “Dad, I’ve always been amazed at how well you X (shave, cook, organize bills . . . .). Did your father teach you that?”
  • “You know so much about the Civil War, Dad. Were you interested in it when you were a little kid? No? Then what were you interested in back then? What were you like back then? It’s hard for me to imagine. I’d have loved to have met you. What were you like as a kid?”

You will find many keys in their answers about childhood. You may find a cache of unrealized dreams and aspirations: a father who dreamed of being a professional athlete until a knee injury sidelined him forever; a mother wanting to go to college but forced to raise her siblings when her father died. You may have often thought you were the only one who had dreams thwarted, but this is usually not so.

Disappointment colors people’s lives and can have a profound effect on families. Even though it may be painful to find out about these things, it’s crucial for you to know. Eventually discovering this information will help you see your parents as fully realized human beings. It will also give you empathy for them. You may discover that their childhoods were much more similar to yours than you suspected. Or you may be surprised to find their impressions of childhood conflict with what you have heard from other family members. This is all grist for the mill of your empathetic imagination.

In many families, there is an old box at the top of a closet stuffed with old photographs. These can be great conversation starters. But even if not, looking at them allows you to absorb the milieu in which your parents grew up in. Get a book from the library which describes what that time period was like. Questions will arise for you to ask, through this very small amount of time and research.

Finally, create a questionnaire. Take some time with this. Don’t present a sheet of questions to your loved one, but look it over, and have it in the back of your mind. But most importantly, try to shift through these memories:

  1. What were the three formative conflicts/traumas/disappointments your parents suffered that had nothing to do with you?
  2. What are the three most important things you learned about your parent’s past?
  3. What are the three things about your parent’s past that you think have the most to do with how he or she deals with you today?

Connecting with your loved one, and exploring the past with them, will help you find buried clues to how your parent’s behavior today is deeply informed by experiences that took place long before you arrived. And you, helping them get in touch with some of their more tender, vulnerable memories and experiences will help the both of you bond, which in turn, will allow you to let go of some of the anger and guilt you may be carrying.