Gal’s Note – I don’t usually publish guest posts but I have a member of my family who suffers from chronic pain due to illness so this post was near and dear to me.
You know that hardest thing in life? It’s watching somebody deal with constant pain, day in, day out. How does somebody deal with that? How do you help them?
My grandmother was recently diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, in her seventies. She is in a state of pain most of the time. Getting up, moving around and even the simplest task is a huge issue for her. While it is an especially hard and painful time for her, it is hard on her family, as well. Making routine check-up visits, waiting for prolonged doctor appointments, dealing with her inability to move as freely and exploring the possibility of hiring a home nurse for her have been just some of the issues the close family has to deal with.
This is how we help her deal with her pain.
First, really understand her pain
All of us have read everything we could find about her condition. We have spent hours researching on the Internet, borrowed books from the library and constantly asked the doctors to understand what she is going through. We know that Rheumatoid Arthritis affects her joints which make her not able to function in a way she likes to. We know that it is really, really hard on her. She has had to give up her beloved knitting and gardening hobbies, things she enjoyed deeply. She can no longer go for her favorite morning walks.
We understand that it’s not just the physical pain but also the loss of freedom and hobbies which bothers her.
Be careful what we say to her
We know that she has taken ill, but she is still a human being, our favorite Nanna. At times, she is touchy or cranky, especially when her pain medication is running low, so we make sure to be patient with her. We know she really doesn’t mean some things she says. We also don’t give her pep talks or talk to her as if she is a child. She is a fully grown woman who has lived a full life and has more experiences than us. We don’t ask her to try harder, or push herself more. We don’t say things like go outside and get some fresh air (at least we try not to do that a lot). We might mean well but sometimes it is just hard for her to hear.
Gal’s note – I completely agree with this. It’s ok to be encouraging, it’s not ok to be condescending.
Take a holistic approach but we don’t push it
People who suffer with chronic pain are also advised to explore alternative therapies. We are lucky in the sense that our grandma is open to looking into different options such as acupuncture, messages, reflexology and meditation. We have one nurse coming in for her regular occupational therapy. Do understand that everybody is not like that. Maybe somebody you are trying to help has undergone similar therapies and treatments in the past that have not worked for them. Perhaps, they just don’t believe in such efforts. It is not unnecessary to put them unnecessary emotional pain also. If they are not open to it, don’t push it. Remember, you are trying to make life easier for them, not for yourself.
Gal’s note – My wife is an executive at a network of clinics specializing in pain relief. They focus on a holistic approach which combines medication with therapy and psychological help. It’s much more effective than just medicating the pain away.
Listen and spend quality time with her
Saying things like, ‘Ah, well, that’s life’ is plain disrespectful and very unkind. Stop saying things that would only agitate them. Spend some quality time with them instead. Ask them how they are feeling or how they’re doing. If they’d rather not talk about it, then respect their decision. Just let them know that you are there in case they change their mind. Encourage children to spend time talking to them, talking about their day and just creating happy memories.
Do the things they can do. Understanding their physical limitations would help you to be sensitive towards their needs. If they are feeling better and would really like to do an activity that they really enjoyed before, do that. For us, whenever our grandma is feeling better, we take her outside for a short stroll to the park or a nearby garden. We know that means a lot to her.
Provide practical help
And lastly, we help her out as much as we can. We help with regular chores such as cooking, cleaning or shopping. We organize the doctor’s appointments. This may seem a lot, but it isn’t really. We are lucky to have a large family who is happy to help her. There are so many of us, and only one condition that is pulling her down. So far, we are winning.
Krisca Te works with http://www.opencolleges.edu.au, Australia’s leading provider of TAFE courses equivalent. When not working, you can find her actively participating in local dog show events – in support of her husband.